Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [4th February] to Question [2nd February]:
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Mr. Hurst.]
Which Amendment was, at the end of Question to add the words
But humbly submit to your Majesty that, while Your Ministers admit that under their administration the state of employment continues to be deplorable and that there are but scanty indications of any improvement in trade, the programme they propose to Parliament is not calculated substantially to reduce unemployment or to stimulate industry; and we further submit that trade prosperity, with the assurance of a reasonable standard of living for all, urgently demands a fundamental reorganisation of industry on the lines of public ownership and democratic control of the essential services."—[Mr. Snowden.]
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Mr. DALTON
The opening proceedings in to-day's sitting have, as you have yourself pointed out to the House, Mr. Speaker, a close connection with the subject of our Amendment. We have heard at the beginning of today's Sitting a cry of distress from one of the devastated districts in this country, the devastated district of the Durham coalfield, a district devastated not by the march of enemy armies, nor by any Socialist follies, as hon. Members opposite may believe, but by the break-down of the Capitalist system in the coalmining industry. In face of these things — and there are many things, of which this is only one example—we say that it is Capitalism and the existing order which 512 to-day stand in the dock. We say that our part is not that of a defender so much as that of an accuser. Indeed, if the truth were told, I believe that in no country outside the United States of America, where they are still hopeful and young, even to the point sometimes of a certain healthy rawness, do even the business men themselves believe that the Capitalist system is the last word in our industrial organisation. I believe that in this country, and in many others, the utmost that they hope is that it will last their time, and perhaps their sons' time, and they do not hope that with any great degree of confidence.
Yesterday the Minister of Labour, rising to reply to our Amendment devoted a large part of his speech to arguing whether there had been a slight improvement in unemployment, whether, in addition to the 1,200,000 workers shown as unemployed in his official returns from the employment exchanges, there were really very many more who had been deprived of unemployment benefit, and driven to the guardians for relief. But he did not pretend that the Government was really dealing with the unemployment problem. The utmost he could say was that the slight improvement which he claimed was not disposed of by the arguments of my right hon. Friend who moved this Amendment. In face of the state of things, which is typified by this great continuing mass of unemployment, distress and poverty, some of His Majesty's Ministers are pottering about, and others are not even doing as well as that. Others are making the rich richer and the poor poorer, remitting the super-tax on the one hard, and the unemployment benefit and the educational opportunities of the children on the other, greasing the fat sow and starving the lean cattle. Others, as was admitted in yesterday's Debate, are considering the question whether or not those who have neither work nor unemployment benefit should also be relieved of the vote, whether they should not be stripped of the last garment that covers their nakedness, and their last instrument of defence against this system.
These are desperate remedies. There are signs all round us that the Capitalist system is in a state of decay. Hon. Members opposite will listen, I am sure, to the authority I am about to quote— 513 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond), who has recently crossed the floor of this House. He said a little while ago, that the trouble in British industry was a lack of drive on the part of employers. They would not take risks as they used to do in the early days of the Capitalist system. May I follow that up by repeating a statement made to me by another business man—not a member of this House, but all business men are entitled to respect in their statements on this matter. Another business man said to me a little while ago, that the root of the trouble is that we have now got to the second, third, and even fourth generations of inherited wealth, and inherited lack of the need for work, for there is no need genuinely to seek employment if you have inherited the wealth of your father and grandfather. Therefore, he said, the business of this country is passing into the hands, not of men who themselves built up the business, as the first generation did, or who went to the University, as the second generation did, but of people who now spend most of their time in going to the Criterion and places like that, or perhaps in going to bogus night clubs. This is the kind of people who to-day are largely responsible for the organisation of our industry. No wonder there is a lack of drive.
There used to be a comfortable doctrine that the capitalist took all the risks, and therefore he was entitled to all the profits and all the control. It is a very dangerous doctrine, not quite so loudly proclaimed now. If it be a true doctrine that he who takes the risks should have the control, then that leads, not to workers' control as we advocate it, but straight to Syndicalism. It is the workers in the industry who take the risks of unemployment, sickness, accident and premature death, and if the control is to go with the risks, then you land yourselves, not in Socialism, but in Syndicalism, not in the mines for the nation, but in mines for the miners. But the capitalists in these later degenerate days are more and more seeking to dodge the risks. What are some of the great contributions we have had from the Government in recent debates, in the Trade Facilities Act, export credits and all the rest of it? If you cannot either replace the capitalist by some better organisation, or infuse 514 into the capitalist same sense of adventure, and some willingness to take risks, then you are driven back to these second and third-rate alternatives, whereby the community bears the risks, and instead of being an adventurer, he becomes a rentier, with a safe rate of interest guaranteed by the State. We are left with a situation in which the community bears the risk, and does not even get paid for it, and under which the capitalist directors of industry are increasingly playing for safety under the shadow of destruction, and not even playing the game very skillfully.
Let me cite a statement from that great business man Mr. Hoover, who was thought to be a great man until he began to make some observations about rubber. But at the time of the War he was regarded as a great authority, and he recently carried out an investigation in the United States, through a committee of business men, into the causes of low efficiency, low output and general inefficiency in business. These business men reported that even in America, where there is a lot of drive in the business world, in the textile trade 50 per cent. of the inefficiency was due to the management, and only 10 per cent. to the workers. In the building industry, the responsibility was 65 per cent. against the management, and only 21 per cent. against the workers. In the boot and shoe industry, 73 per cent. of the responsibility was against the management, and only 11 per cent. against the workers, and in the metal trades 81 per cent. of the responsibility was against the management, and only 9 per cent. was against the workers. A certain proportion of responsibility in each case was due neither to one class nor the other, but to other factors. The general conclusion from these figures is that in the judgment of a competent body of American business men, even in the country towards which longing eyes are sometimes cast in respect of scientific methods, the chief accusation of inefficiency is against those capitalists who, by hook or by crook, by luck or some other device have risen to the control of industry. It is against this background of capitalist inefficiency and failure that we move our Socialist Amendment.
§ Mr. DALTON
Much more efficient. If 80 per cent. of the responsibility for inefficiency is due to them, 90 per cent., or perhaps 100 per cent., is due to the capitalists here. We propose the public ownership and the democratic control of the essential services. Perhaps I may quote from a remarkable book which has come out recently, and which I commend to any hon. Members opposite who may be interested in following out recent developments of Socialism. I refer to Mr. Brailsford's book, "Socialism for To-day." I also quote him because he expresses, in better words, I think, than I myself could express, the fundamental position which we take up:We believe that reason, and science and goodwill, can organise and co-ordinate our efforts more successfully than the haphazard play of competing needs and greeds.That is the ground of our Amendment. The Minister of Labour, in his concluding speech last night, spoke of the great danger of making mistakes in the organisation of industry. He might tell that to the Coal Owners. He spoke as though public ownership and democratic control was an entirely new and untried principle, and that it would be very dangerous indeed to make even a short step in that direction. I propose, in the hope of creating some impression on the minds of hon. Members opposite, to confine what I have to say entirely to the British Empire, which at Election times they take under their especial charge. I am sorry that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is too busy contemplating the ruins of the national finances to attend this Debate, because I would have particularly liked him to hear what I have to say. He has made it a practice lately to go about the country denouncing Socialists as slavish followers of foreign models, which of course leads in to cheap-jack remarks about Karl Marx, and I am very anxious to show to patriotic statesmen how much we can learn from the British Dominions beyond the seas.
Take Australia. You will find that all the railways there are owned by the State. That is their State policy. Not even the anti-Labour majority in Australia now opposes that. In New Zealand the railways are owned by the State. In Canada a large part of the railways are owned by the State, the State having had to take them over owing to the mess 516 made by private enterprise in the case of the Grand Trunk. The only reason why some of the railways are still owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway is that they pinched the land all along the line when the line was put there, and were able to balance the loss on their traffic by the sale of land alongside the railways. The Grand Trunk were not clever enough to pinch the land. If you come to South Africa, you will find the railways are run on socialistic lines. If you come to India—which we govern with more or less wisdom—you will find that there, too, the railways are not run by private enterprise, but by the State. The Government are going shortly to ask the House to agree—and I am sure they will agree—at all events I hope so—to an East African Loan Bill which is going to be used for the construction of railways, not by private enterprise, but, as I understand it, to be owned by the Governments of those East African territories. I trust that when the public are invited to subscribe to that loan they will realise that they are subscribing to establish Socialism in East Africa! But that need not deter them, for they will get a safe 5 per cent. on their investment.
Nearly all our leans to the Dominions and Colonies, under the protection of the Trustee Acts, have been used to establish Socialism in the form of public works, irrigation and power schemes, end even, I am sorry to say, of banking.
There is a branch of the Australian Commonwealth Bank in the Strand, where any hon. Member who is interested will be able to get particulars from those in charge. I might give instance after instance of the way in which in the British Empire alone these things take place. I will not terrify hon. Members opposite by going into foreign models. Within the British Empire alone there is continual advance in the power of the State in every direction. Nearly everything we are proposing to do by way of nationalisation and public ownership has already been done and is publicly owned in some part or other of the British Empire. You find everywhere the application of Socialist principles. Great Britain is the most backward area in the whole Empire in its application of them. I trust that when hon. Members opposite are enjoined to buy British goods they will not only follow my example in 517 buying Empire tobacco, but will also buy some Empire ideas on the application of this Amendment which is being already carried into operation in other parts of the Empire to the great advantage of those communities.
Essential services are spoken of in our Amendment. The Minister of Labour last night asked us exactly what we meant by the essential services that were included. I have no difficulty in answering that question. We refer to the key industries, though not in the misleading sense used by Protectionists who go whining for doles on dolls' eyes and so forth. We use it in the proper sense of the key industries of transport and power, the railways, electric supplies, coal mining and banking. My hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Mr. Maxton) has to-day introduced a Bill, which has all our sympathy, advocating the nationalisation of the Bank of England. This follows the example of the Australian Commonwealth. Dr. Walter Leaf, who may be listened to, not only as a bank manager, but as a classical scholar, and who is chairman of one of the "Big Five," reminded us the other day in his annual speech to his bank thatThe banker is the universal arbiter of the world's economy.What, however, is there in their "arbitrating" in the years since the War to lead us to think that these bankers are fitted to occupy the position which they themselves claim? Does anyone deny now that one of the great causes of unemployment and distress in this country has been the violent trade fluctuations brought about after the War very largely through monetary mistakes? First of all, we had inflation of credit, and then we had deflation of credit, neither authorised by the community! Had the community been consulted, had they been put in possession of the facts, they would have followed the wise statement of the Prime Minister, made, I think, in this House who, when asked whether he was an inflationist or a deflationist replied: "I am a non-flationist." So, Mr. Speaker, are all intelligent students of monetary affairs. The pity is that the Prime Minister is not able to keep his party, or many members of his party, right on that point.
First of all, you had the foreign expansion of credit after the Armistice under pressure from the Federation of British 518 Industries. Those were the days of easy money. You had only to buy a thing for 4d., to sit still and to sell it for 9d. That was 9d. for 4d.! Then, later, deflation came and credit was restricted, and you had to sell for 4d. that for which you had paid 9d. That, however, does not worry one. What does worry one is the fact that deflation means enormous and sudden unemployment, and the driving down, not only of the level of productivity through all our industries, but that the capital equipment or a large part of it is standing idle. It also means driving down the standard of living in the country.
But this folly, this see-saw, this inflation and deflation carried on by irresponsible arbiters of the world's economy, sitting in their bank parlours, chosen by no one except a small body of people who have got there first, themselves chosen by no one in their turn—it is this irresponsible private enterprise in banking which has been playing ducks and drakes with the prosperity of this country. It is time to end it and to decide that the community, through this House, should settle the broad outlines of banking and monetary policy, and that competent men, representative not only of city parlours but of industry, of trade unionism, of the co-operative movement and every other important organised economic interest, should work out there things in detail as the directors of a bank.
There is one more essential industry to which I would refer, and I again put this to the advocates of Empire trade. In my judgment the real way to develop Empire trade is to be a little daring and a little bold, to try to develop direct bulk purchases from the Dominions by some body representative of the interests of the community here. Can we not sacrifice a few speculators' profits, a few middlemen's commissions, for the sake of getting a large, stable and continuous import of the necessaries of life from overseas? Is there any difficulty? All difficulties were overcome during the War, and if we could do it then, why not now? Is there any difficulty in organising direct purchase by a board of supply in this country, not a Government department but a board of supply on which we could put any business man who thought it not beneath his dignity to serve the State for a fixed salary instead of taking all the pro- 519 fits he could. Any business man who was willing to do it, and was competent, rather than push his own little trolley of private profit could do far better service to the State by organising direct purchases in bulk on the basis of long contracts and stable prices—the purchase from Australia, Canada, and other parts of the Empire, and, if we cannot get enough from them, from other parts of the world, of wheat and wool and all the other necessaries of life, cutting out the middleman, cutting out the speculator, and distributing the produce at cost price to the people of this country.
I shall not go into detail about the mines. No doubt the hon. Member who grins could do it much better, and no doubt he will get a chance later on. My reason for not doing cit is partly because the Labour party have recently put a very clear and a very complete constructive scheme before the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry, which contrasts in a remarkable way with the proposals of the present owners of the industry, who are outstanding examples, even in the capitalist world, of short-sightedness and self-satisfied incompetence. They seem to have spent a large part of the subsidy they received from the tax-payers in propaganda against the miners. Only yesterday I received an illustrated handbook, presumably paid for out of the subsidy—for, of course, they have no profits, poor things, with which to pay for it—on the housing of the miners in Scotland, pictures of all the little gardens of Eden that have been springing up in the mining villages of Lanarkshire and Fife. It makes beautiful reading, and it is so well got up it must have cost a good deal—they have got money to burn. But it is not necessary for me, in view of the statement we have put in to the Coal Mining Commission, to develop that case beyond saying this, that I hope after that plan has been read there will be no more misrepresentation as to what we mean by "democratic control of industry." I believe that any hon. Member on the other side who reads that document, whether or not he agrees with it, will not be able to misunderstand that part of it. What we mean by democratic control of industry is that the control should be in the hands not of 520 passive shareholders or their nominees, but in the hands of representatives, in part, of the workers who do the work of the industry, whether by hand or by brain, or by both, and partly in the hands of consumers and users of the product of the industry, from whom the decay of competition has taken the one defence against exploitation which early Victorian economists pretended they had. May I quote in defence of the policy, particularly the first part of it, from what a judge of the High Court said a few years ago:Half a century of education has produced in the workers of the coalfields far more than a desire for the material advantages of higher wages and shorter hours. They have now in many cases and to an ever-increasing extent a higher ambition of taking their due share and interest in the direction of the industry, to the success of which they, too, are contributing.Those were the words of Mr. Justice Sankey in his famous Report in 1919, which the right hon. Gentleman on the other side of the Gangway (Mr. Lloyd George) did not think fit to act upon. In the judgment of many of us, had it, been acted upon, it would have saved us from a great number of our subsequent difficulties. That desire of the workers in the coalfields, so well expressed by Mr. Justice Sankey, is not restricted to them. It extends through a large number of other sections of our workers.
The Division which will be taken this afternoon will mark the deepest and most clear-cut dividing line in the political thought of the day. All who are not for us we gladly count as against us, including any Members of the Liberal party who, with their customary gallantry, may be preparing to nail their colours to the fence, and abstain from going into the Lobby. We shall vote for this Amendment because, looking back upon history, and looking upon the facts of to-day, we believe that the capitalist system is a phase that is passing, that must pass, and should pass as soon as may be, and that when it passes, largely, as we believe, through our political effort, we have our plans ready to supersede it, for the advantage and the benefit of the whole community—of the whole community except one class, that class of the super-rich who contribute no corresponding service in return for their drafts upon 521 the pool. We, on the other hand, believe, and that is why we are voting as we are, that in this age of darkness and despair and difficulty, Socialism is the hope of the world.
§ Mr. R. S. HUDSON
I never listen to to a debate in this House on this subject without wondering for what reason hon. Members opposite ask for an Amendment of this description to be put down on the Order Paper. I cannot understand the reason unless it be simply to enable them to deliver once more their stock speeches on this subject perhaps with a little variation; but it does not at any rate indicate what is passing in the mind of the average working man. I have listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down and I now begin to understand why in connection with the institution for the young where he preaches to a certain section of the community the number of Conservatives in that community has continued to increase since his appointment there. Of course the right hon. Gentleman the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) has made a very interesting variation from his usual subject by attacking the agricultural policy of the Government. While the hon. Member was speaking I was particularly interested in watching the expression on the face of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). If I may say so without offence, it reminded me of the smile on the face of that famous tiger, only I thought in his case he would ride home inside. I would like to know the extent to which prior consultation took place before that speech was made because it seems such a departure from the attitude of the Labour party as a whole as expressed in recent speeches and especially in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. Arthur Henderson) who is smiling at the present moment.
There is another point in the various speeches which have been made to which I wish to call attention. We have been told that it will be quite impossible to obtain harmony unless the individual working man can be assured that the harder he works the greater will be his share of the resulting product. I know it is always difficult to pin down Socialists to any particular declaration of policy, because, quot homines tot sententiae, they all have 522 their own brand but as far as I am able to judge there are two generally accepted doctrines one is equal pay for all and the other is that you must produce according to your capacity and get paid according to your needs. Those two propositions are difficult to reconcile with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Come Valley said yesterday and we should do well to remember this in the future. But apart from those speeches I think there is one point which we ought to make in answer to this Socialistic Amendment and it is that we ought to try and pin down the party opposite and try to discover whether the sympathy they profess so much for the working classes is really genuine. If it is genuine surely the object of the party opposite ought to be to relieve it at once by any means in their power and by every means possible. If it is not genuine and if it is mere camouflage and if they are merely actuated by political motives then it would appear that they wish to see misery increase and chaos come about in our trade, so that eventually the working classes of this country will come to the conclusion that, rather than suffer the ills they are under at the present time, they would, at all events, try the Socialist panacea. If that is true, then every improvement in trade, every sign of betterment for working men and every scheme to decrease their suffering and improve their wages and status in industry must be distasteful to hon. Members opposite, and after reading the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Bromley) and the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), I feel it is not unfair for us to assume that the second of the two alternatives is true, and that really they do not mean what they pretend in regard to ameliorating the sufferings and miseries of the people. The average working man is sufficiently intelligent to know that, although the State may control wages and the conditions under which he worked, it cannot create those wages or secure prosperity by a decree, and I am equally certain that the great majority of them think that England, at any rate, for the next generation will continue to work upon a system of private enterprise. I am prepared to admit that at the present time 523 private enterprise is not working as well as it might do, because the capitalists in the past have very often failed to realise the necessity of paying the best possible wages when they were making high profits.
We have heard a good deal about ca' canny but when you come to investigate this matter you find that you cannot obtain much evidence about it. On the other side you find a much too great a prevalence amongst the leaders of the Labour party of loose talk. In the past the capitalist has by enormous profits and excessive watering of capital found it easier to cut down wages rather than endeavour to increase the efficiency of production by bringing his plant more up to date. On this point I assert that if you introduced Socialism to-day you would still be faced with the same problem of how to eliminate waste and how to cheapen production. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston said that poverty instead of being the result of unemployment was the cause of it and he said that any Government which neglects its opportunities to deal with the present problem is false to its declarations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston said on Wednesday last:It seems to me the very height of folly to think that you can go on increasing your output of goods or increasing your import of goods without granting to the people who provide the market for your goods a sufficiently large income to keep pace with the production."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1926; col. 148, vol. 191.]I am sure that the great majority of the Members on this side of the House agree entirely with those propositions, but where we differ from the right hon. Gentleman is in the means for obtaining those ends. The right hon. Gentleman will say that the only thing to do is to nationalise the banks and the instruments of production. I would like to point out that there is across the water an example where they obtain those very objects under a capitalist system. The Prime Minister said at Sunderland the other day that he wished trade unionists would go to America in order to see the conditions prevailing there. Personally, I wish the Prime Minister would agree to send out to America an official delegation of trade unionists to study the methods adopted there and bring back an un- 524 biassed report. I am not pretending, and hon. Members opposite who have recently been in America would not agree with me if I did pretend, that everything out there is perfect. But you cannot get away from the fact that, compared with pre-War, real wages over there have risen by something like 20 per cent., and, compared with pre-War, teal wages here have fallen by 10 per cent. When you have a position like that, it is idle to say that there is no lesson to be learned. If there be no other advantage to be obtained, there is at all events this advantage, that finally we should have an agreed report as to conditions out there, and we should no longer have a number of people going out and coming back praising everything they have seen, and others going out and coming back and saying, "For heaven's sake, do not let us do what the people on the other side have done!"
Members opposite, no doubt, will reply that if such a delegation came back with a report, the Government would be compelled to enforce that, report on industries at home, and that would mean increased Government control. Personally, I do not agree in the slightest. I think that, without doing anything of a socialistic line, the Government could at the present moment do considerably more than is being done for industry. In the United States, for example, a great deal is being done in the way of collecting information and making it available to the country as a whole. Much more is being done there than is being done here. When one goes over there, it is remarkable to see the number of research institutions that are available for everyone and the wide extent that information is made public in a form in which it, will be accepted and read by a larger number of people than those who at present read the Ministry of Labour Gazette or the Board of Trade Journal. We have problems of waste to eliminate just as they have, and it seems to me, now that the Prime Minister has made such extraordinary and gratifying progress in file way of improving relations in industry, it is time that the Government made some, real attempt to devise a constructive lead for industry.
We have heard a great many accusations against industry for being inefficient. We have heard it in the case of the coal industry, and we hope that the report of the Coal Commission will deal with that 525 matter among others, and that, finally, we shall have an unbiassed report whether or not the coal industry is efficient. Other accusations have been made by hon. Members opposite against other industries in all parts of the country, and especially against the steel industry. The Cabinet Committee must have had a great deal of information before it dealing with this very point, and, although it may take some courage to publish that information, I think the best interests of the country would be served by letting us know whether or not that industry is efficient. We have seen, in the case of one big combine, a report, and it has certainly done good. If there are other firms similarly circumstanced in this country, surely now is the time, when trade is bad, that the axe should be applied to the dead wood if there be any dead wood in industry, rather than that we should wait until trade is reviving, and the application of that axe might result in serious dislocation. If the Prime Minister and the Government will take some constructive step of that sort, then I am perfectly convinced, from talking with working men up and down the country, that so long as the party opposite maintain as their official policy the doctrines and claims in the Amendment we are discussing to-day, and confine themselves to their official policy, so long, as a party, will they sit on those benches, and so long shall we, as a party, continue to occupy these benches.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
The speech of the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. R. Hudson) was rather a singular speech, in that, while he questioned the honesty of Members upon these benches, he yet felt inclined to agree with the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) as to the causes of poverty. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow morning will show whether what I have stated is correct or not. He questioned the honesty of our intentions with regard to the workers and their betterment, and at the same time he quoted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston and accepted his conclusion. Where he disagreed with him, he said, was in the application of the method.
§ Mr. R. HUDSON
What I said was that I agreed entirely with him as to the 526 causes, but that where we disagreed entirely was in the suggested remedies.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Precisely, and, if the hon. Member will read what was said, he will find how the right hon. Gentleman arrived at his reason for stating the causes. At the same time, the hon. Member questions the honesty of the right hon. Gentleman and the Members who sit upon these benches. He cannot have it both ways If he is gong to accept a dishonest conclusion, then he had better class himself among the dishonest people and come among us. The hon. Member was also quite prepared to chastise the employers of this country for their inefficiency and to, point out how much better it would be were they to go to America and study methods of business there, taking with them some working men so that they might examine the conditions of employment to which the workers there have to submit. He admits that private enterprise is not working as well as it might do, and he wants us to go to America and study methods there to try to improve the work of private enterprise in this country. But who directs the operation of private enterprise in this country? Not the workers, but the very people, who are supporting the party of which he is a member. They are responsible if private enterprise is not working properly. It is their inefficiency that he is condemning and not the inefficiency of the workers. He may shake his head, but he cannot have them running industry badly and at the same time paragons of virtue and great captains of industry. I submit that the hon. Member had better study a little more of the industry of the country, and had better stand a little longer at some of those open air meetings in Whitehaven, where he will hear a little more information.
With regard to the statement that we are dishonest in our efforts to better the lot of the workers, I challenge that at once. I have never questioned the honesty of any Member on the other side; what I question is their discretion; what I question is the way in which they treat other people. I quite believe that they are honest in the belief that they are in the proper sphere which God called them to occupy, and that the worker is in 527 his proper sphere, and that they, being in a superior sphere, have to look down upon and treat the worker as an inferior person. They are quite honest in that, and I admit that they are honest. What I question also is whether, after all, that is a suitable thing to do in these times, with the education and the feeling of the workers as they are.
My main object in rising was to take exception to the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I have not been in the House so long as some other Members, but I have been here now for eight years, and this is the eighth Speech from the Throne that I have listened to in this House; and I must, confess, that it is the worst Speech that has ever been submitted to this House. At a time when the conditions in this country are admitted by hon. Members who oppose us to be the worst that we have ever seen, a Speech such as has been introduced is brought forward in order to mock the misery of the people who are in distress outside. There is nothing that is calculated to bring out any cure or any solution, or any amelioration of the conditions of the people outside, and all that those who are in distress can look forward to, seemingly, is another year of this stand-off policy of a Tory Government, with the hope that something may turn up at the end of the year or during the year to solve the problem of itself. I heard a Member of this House state that what was wanted was to encourage Dominion trade. That was his solution of the unemployment problem in this country, and he drew attention to the fact that in the Dominions each man, woman and child was calculated to be worth from £6 10s. to £7 per year in value of trade to this country. He evidently forgot, however, that, while we are trying to boom emigration schemes, and to get people out of this country to the Dominions, where they might be calculated to be of a value of £0 10s. to £7 a year to us, if they are employed in this country earning wages of £3 or £4 a week they are worth to the home trade from £150 to £200 a year.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I think, if I may say so, that the hon. Member has misunderstood my argument. I did not suggest that the figures to which he refers 528 should be used as an argument against home trade or against increasing our home trade, but merely as an argument as to the advantage of Dominion trade as against foreign trade.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The hon. Member was asking us to develop more Dominion trade, I take it, and later on in his speech he commended emigration.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Exactly. If he commends emigration, the getting people out of this country, he wants to get out of this country people who are of value to the trade of this country to the extent of from £150 to £200 a year, into a place where their value to the trade of this country will only be 10s. or £7 a year. I suggest that, like the hon. Member for Whitehaven, he cannot have it both ways. If he puts forward arguments which cancel out, that is his fault, and not mine. It may be my fault if I cannot understand his arguments, but, if he cannot make them understandable to me, it will be impossible for the workers in the country to understand them. I am asked why? The very fact that we are increasing in numbers outside in the country shows that the people do not understand them.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mt. Lansbury) is quite correct. You occupy your seats by a minority vote; you have not converted the majority of the people of this country, and, consequently, it is impossible for yet to have converted their understanding The Ministry of Labour is, in my opinion, one of the most soulless departments that we have in the whole of the Government. When the Tory Government came into office, and the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Labour accepted that position, I stated then that I appreciated the efforts he had made as a private citizen in order to alleviate distress and to inquire into the causes of distress, but I said I would withhold judgment as to his action as Minister of Labour until he had had the opportunity of proving whether the humanitarian idea that he carried 529 into his private life would be also brought forward in his public career. I must submit here and now—and I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman is not here, because I would prefer to say these things to his face—that, after 15 months' occupation of the office of Minister of Labour, after 15 months of unemployment such as has never been equalled in this country, the methods adopted by him and his officials, the regulations imposed upon the people outside by him and his officials, the way in which people are being denied unemployment benefit and are being cast upon the Poor Rate and made paupers in the eyes of the world, is to me an indication that the word "soulless" is the proper adjective to use to describe the Ministry of Labour.
We have a million and a quarter unemployed, and last night the right hon. Gentleman came before the House to tell us how things were improving—a few pounds up in the year, a difference of opinion between the late Chancellor of the Exchequer and himself. I think the late Chancellor of the Exchequer was quite correct in his interpretation of the figures in the Ministry of Labour Gazette. Unemployment has increased; there is no getting away from that fact. There is rigging of the registers. I challenge the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour to disprove that the registers in the Employment Exchanges are rigged. They are not honest; they are not true; they are not a proper indication of the condition of unemployment in this country. Inspectors are going round the country removing names from the register. Local Committees, who, according to the Act and according to the regulations, are supposed to understand local circumstances better than any section of the Ministry of Labour, agree to give certain individuals benefit, because they know the local circumstances better. Those cases are at once referred to an official, many miles away from the particular locality where the benefit has been granted, or are sent here to London. The officials, who know absolutely nothing about the conditions in the locality, who know nothing about the individual except what is stated on the form that is sent up, refuse to implement the decision of the Committee, and turn down the man's benefit, although the local committee has given it. Soulless! It is the most out- 530 rageous position that any Government in this country has allowed any Department to take up.
The Minister, according to the most recent Act, has a certain discretion. How does he exercise that discretion? As we understood it in this House when the Bill came before us, the discretion was only supposed to operate within the confines of the Act, but I can give instance after instance, scores of instances, where the Minister's discretion has been used in such a way as to give a decision that is not covered by any Section or Sub-section of the Act. If any private individual breaks the law, he is taken up before a court, but the Minister of Labour gets off, and his officials get off; and he came down last night to tell the workers of the country, through the medium of this House, how he and his Ministry sympathise with the conditions in which they are placed, concluding with a quotation about going through tangled woods and clearing them away. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer came back from Epping Forest, I wondered where the other babe in the wood had got to. Last night the Minister of Labour confessed that he was the missing babe, still in the wood, still lost, and trying to find his way out. [An HON. MEMBER: "Cover them with leaves!"] Covering them with leaves would not cover up the atrocities they have been committing. These people who have had to suffer all these things come to the Members of the House. I wonder how many Tory Members do what some of us do on these benches. During the Autumn Recess and the Recess since December I have spent every afternoon in my constituency seeing people who have come to me to state their grievances. My rooms were like a doctor's consulting room.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Only last year I received certain complaints from the hon. Member's constituency, and put them through to the Ministry of Labour.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I can give you the names. [An hon. Member "Come back"]. It is about time we came to those benches again.
§ Mrs. PHILIPSON
If it is the case of the fishermen, I have already been to the Ministry of Labour and seen about the cases.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The hon. Member is mistaken. It is not about the fishermen. If hon. Members opposite did something of that kind—[Hon Members "We do"]. I am glad to know you do, but evidently if they touch your heart with the stories that are told you your hearts harden as soon as you leave the constituencies and come to those benches. Your actions in this House do not show that you pay much attention to what is said to you there or analysis the conditions in your constituencies very much. The Minister of Health, or ill health, is another individual of the same character as the Minister of Labour. The Ministries of Health and Labour are the two Departments which are responsible for more suffering than any others in the Government. All over the country regulations are put in force. We have tried time and again to get the instructions that are issued to the various departments of those two Ministries, but we have been refused on the ground that they are private and confidential. It seems that we can pass an Act of Parliament which enables certain Departments to do certain things within the terms of those Acts, but the moment they have received the King's signature and become operative the Ministries which have to administer them can pass any private and confidential instruction to the officials under them that they like and Members of the House have no Tight to see them or question whether they come within the compass of the Act or not. Many things are being done to-day by both these Ministries and the Departments under their control which are absolutely against the Acts of Parliament. Does the Minister of Health challenge that? He muttered something.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)
I wondered how you could know these acts are illegal if you did not know what were the instructions.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
That, of course, will be a source of wonder to you. I am waiting on you to challenge that what I state is not true.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The other side says the same thing as the Minister of Health. The Minister does not challenge the accuracy of my statement. He is still silent. So is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour. They both know that it is true, and I again tell them that both Departments have been responsible for more distress and misery than any other, and I suggest also that if it could be analysed in a proper way the deaths of children can be traced directly to the maladministration of those Departments. When the division takes place, while we shall be in a minority, while the Tories will vote behind the soulless Ministers—[Laughter]. Laughing with misery such as is going on! What are you laughing at? [HON. MEMBERS: "At you."] Come outside and make the same laughter there. Certain Rules in this House prevent me replying in the way that laughter should be replied to. I am not afraid of their laughter. They can laugh at me as much as they like. I am speaking on behalf of people who are starving, and I will not brook their laughter. I will not accept it. Unless something is going to be done by Ministers to recall these illegal documents which are operating in the Departments there will be more said in this House in the coming Session than has been said in the past. We do not intend to permit these illegal operations to continue which have evidently been put into operation by these two Ministries.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I was very interested in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) who moved this Amendment. He really hardly spoke about the theoretical side of Socialism at all, but confined himself during the major part of this speech to the subject of agriculture, which has not hitherto been his practice, and I could not help wondering whether this new-found interest in the difficulties with which farmers are contending was due to an interest in agriculture, as such, or to a, new-found interest in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). However, I am afraid if that was the first step towards a rapprochement between the Liberal and Labour benches the hon. 533 Member for Peckham (Mr. Dalton) subsequently administered a cold douche. He delivered a very able tirade against what he was pleased to call the capitalist system, though I have never discovered what exactly the capitalist system, as such, is. The theories of the Labour party change from day to day. I understand now that Mr. Brailsford holds the field. I thought the Birmingham proposals has recently been substituted for Mr. Brailsford's. We shall be very interested if some subsequent speaker will explain whether Mr. Brailsford or Mr. Mosley is at present in charge of their theories, because they seem to me to differ to a considerable extent.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I shall be prepared to give the hon. Member the information he wants if he will tell me whether the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary holds the field on the other side.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I can very easily answer that question. The Prime Minister undoubtedly holds the field. To me the most remarkable thing about the present system of production in this country is that it has survived the almost intolerable conditions which have been imposed upon it during the last five years. It is not very difficult to discover the main cause of the depression of the last two years. The hon. Member for Peckham knows very well that it dates from a Treasury Minute issued in November, 1919, which stated that in future the policy of the Treasury and the Bank of England—and those two institutions work in the closest co-operation—was going to be a policy of deflation, following upon the report of the Cunliffe Committee. I am not for one moment going into the merits or demerits of the policy of inflation or deflation. I think we deflated too quickly although it was obvious that at some period we must be prepared to go back to the gold basis. The immediate effect of that policy was a dramatic reduction in prices, and a drastic curtailment of credit.
I want to state for the benefit of the House a few irrefutable facts about the policy that was pursued. One effect was that wages were reduced. I will give an example. The changes in the rate of wages during the period 1921–22 resulted in a reduction of £10,000,000 in the weekly 534 wages of 7,000,000 workers. That in itself was a blow to the big producing industries in this country, from which I marvel that they ever recovered. The national income fell from a nominal value of £4,600,000,000 in 1920 to a nominal value of under £3,000,000,000 in 1922. During the period from June, 1920, to June, 1921, the index number of prices fell 128 points and the percentage of unemployment rose from 2.6 to 17.8. Nobody at this stage would have the audacity to claim that those two sets of figures bear no relation to each other. There we have the clear facts, which cannot be gainsaid. I do not go into the merits or demerits of the question, but it is no use hon. Members getting up and saying that the whole productive system has broken down; that it has ceased to function. I admit that we are not efficient enough; nothing is ever efficient enough. It is not, however, the system of production which has failed in this country. The fact is that it has had to be worked during this abnormal period at a very great disadvantage.
Hon. Members must also bear in mind that the finance of Central Europe during the last few years has broken down. The purchasing power of Central Europe has almost utterly failed. There has been an unprecedentedly depreciated currency during all this period in almost all European countries, and that has had a very unfortunate effect upon our export trade. We have had to bear an intolerable burden of taxation, due partly to the policy of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George).
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am glad the hon. Member has mentioned that point. It gives me a chance to say that I have opposed that policy absolutely, and shall continue to do so.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I am very glad to hear it. When hon. Members add to the intolerable burden of taxation the excessive local rates that have had to be borne, they will realise how stupendous have been the burdens which industry in this country has had to bear. We have paid, and are paying, our internal and external debts in full. We have had to meet the great burden of pension charges, which will, of course, be reduced in the future. We have also borne during 535 the last five years an immense burden of social services, far greater than that borne by any other country in the world. We have also to bear in mind the failure of successive Governments, including the Labour Government, to make any real attempt at the economic organisation and development of the Empire. The Labour Government did not call an Imperial Conference or say how they were going to develop the Empire and the untouched assets which are still lying in many cases fallow in the vast areas of the Empire. They did not afford any practical assistance, in any form, to the exporting industries of this country. The marvel, to my mind, is that we have not had a revolution. I do not know how we got through that terrible period of 1921–23, when so intolerable a strain was imposed upon the productive industries in this country. In my opinion, the monetary policy was at the basis of the whole thing, and the other causes were more or less subsidiary.
It was the direct cause of the 1923 Election. That was a genuine attempt on the part of the Government in power to bring direct relief to those industries which were being most hardly hit by the policy which was being carried out. I still think, unrepentantly, that if that Protective policy had been carried out, we should not have had the misery which resulted in 1924 and 1925. If we had carried through that policy in 1923, it would have been of immense benefit to the protected industries. What is Protection? It is only one form of inflation—as Mr. Keynes has pointed out—applied to the particular sores of the moment. It is to help certain industries which, due to external conditions, are suffering abnormal competition for a particular period. The proposals that were made in 1923 would have dealt with that.
I believe that the monetary policy was ultimately the cause of the necessity for the coal subvention last summer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer at that period made a hasty observation that the gold standard had as much to do with export prices as the Gulf Stream. That was a remark which I am sure, on reflection, he must have regretted. He has remembered himself now, and we need not stress that point. Undoubtedly, the 536 monetary policy did have an effect upon export prices and was one of the causes of the coal subvention. That is now over, thank God. The policy of the American banks, into whose hands we temporarily delivered ourselves, has been, fortunately for us, one of credit expansion. Mr. McKenna thinks, and I am glad, that the policy which has been going on there will continue, and that there will shortly be a surplus of gold in the world to meet the immediate requirements of industry. We shall then reap the benefit of the gold standard. The restoration of the gold standard has been achieved at a great cost, but it will react in our favour from now onwards. The dreadful period of violent deflation is ever.
I should like to ask the Government one question. I wonder whether they still approve of the policy of the Genoa Resolutions on currency? The present Secretary of State for War stated that, to his mind, they were a financial code of no less importance than the civil code of Justinian. I do not know whether he still holds to that view. The principle laid down by the Genoa Resolutions was that there should be a meeting of the central banks of Europe. I would add in parenthesis for the information of the hon. Member for Peckham that those Resolutions laid stress on the desirability of the central banks not being State banks. They stressed the desirability of the central banks meeting at some place in Europe in the near future to consider the stabilisation of the value of gold and the question of getting 31 to a gold exchange standard. That conference has not been held. I put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and he said it was the Opinion of the Government that the conference ought to be held as soon as possible. Is this not a sphere in which the League of Nations might very usefully intervene and summon that conference to meet al an early date?
I want to say a word on the subject of the reorganisation of industry in this country. I would like to ask what is the policy of the Labour party to-day in regard to that question? I do not accuse them of dishonesty, but I should like to know whether they really want trade to improve in this country or whether it is their policy to smash the present system for political ends in others words, to break up the present system and substitute their own 537 for it. They contradict themselves. In one speech they say that the whole system is rotten and bad and ought to be abolished, and in the next that they are all for co-operation in industry in an endeavour to recover our markets. We shall know very soon what their policy is. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) made a rather interesting proposal yesterday, namely, that the three Front Benches should come together round a table and discuss the position of industry at the moment. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Did he say three?"] Yes, after a pause he added the Liberals. With regard to that suggestion, I think a conference of some kind is very desirable, but a conference of the politicians of the three Front Benches, although it might be great fun for the three Front Benches, would not, I think, be calculated to do much to relieve the hardship of the conditions in industry at the moment. An hon. Member on this side of the House drew attention to what he called the sentimental stuff that is being talked about sympathy and co-operation in industry. I disagree with him most profoundly on that point.
The most remarkable phase of modern politics in the policy which the Prime Minister has been pursuing practically by himself during the last 18 months, and I say, without fear of contradiction, that the effect of that policy in the major industries of this country has been tremendous, and in no place more so than in Scotland. There is a better spirit in industry to-day as the result of the efforts of the Prime Minister than there was three years ago. Even Mr. Trotsky has now been compelled to take notice of what he is pleased to call "Baldwinism"; and in a book he has recently published he says that although probably Baldwinism is doomed to failure there is no doubt that it is having a considerable effect in this country, and must be considered seriously by the whole of the Soviet and official classes in Russia. Indeed, his references to the Prime Minister are eulogistic in comparison with his references to the leaders of the Opposition and the leaders of the Socialist party.
There is, however, one aspect of industrial policy which, I think, ought to be considered. The sore point in this country is in the heavy exporting industries. Other industries are doing pretty 538 well. A lot of money is being made, and nobody in the banking or insurance businesses is bankrupt to-day. There is a very large number of small industries, also, which are doing very well. Unfortunately, it is in the heavy exporting industries that the greatest number of men are employed—now unemployed—and I think we shall have to rush some State assistance to these industries in the days ahead. Profound changes have taken place in the organisation of the heavy exporting industries in other countries. I need not go into details, but you have only to take as an example the steel trusts of the United States and of Germany, those huge amalgamations in which they have altered the whole system of production and gone is for what is called mass production, thereby reducing overhead charges and other expenditure. They work altogether, banks as well, and in any particular area or district you get every single industry coming in and co-operating in an endeavour to reduce overhead charges and transport charges. Something of that kind will have to take place in this country also; and it is really well suited for it. Take the Glasgow area, or the Cardiff area: in both these areas such a scheme could very well be adopted and put in operation, and I think ultimately we shall have to try and get in these heavy industries the full co-operation and brains and skill of every business man in that area.
I make a suggestion to the Government, which I hope they will at any rate consider, that we should ultimately try and form something in the nature of trade corporations for running particular industries. Take the shipping industry in Glasgow. Why should you not get all the leading brains in Glasgow on to one board and see whether they cannot organise the industry on a really economic basis, and co-operate? For such a proposal no doubt credit is required. We have sweated blood to get that credit in this country—and we have it now—and I do not see why the Government should not use that credit for the benefit of someone else besides Greeks, Armenians, and Austrians. I do not see why the Government should take one-fifth of the profit out of industry and put absolutely nothing into it. Ever since the red herring of nationalisation has been 539 drawn across the field of industry by the Labour party more nonsense has been talked about public ownership and State interference than about anything else. What is Protection, after all, but a more or less arbitrary form of State interference?
What we have done is this. We have got the country very ill with a gaping wound—that is, the heavy exporting industries—and instead of giving it the slight drug—I will call it a drug for the benefit of the Liberal party—of Protection, or of inflation, or of credit, we give it the purge of deflation and the probe of Free Trade, and then, when the patient is nearly dead, we say it is due to the failure of the capitalistic system to function. We shall have to do something. We cannot give Protection, but I think a great deal might be done by developing the Government trade facilities policy. The President of the Federation of British Industries has urged frequently during the past that it would be a good thing to try to get some national economic council with all the interests in industry represented upon it, financial, trade union and employers, in order to co-ordinate the industrial and economic policy of this country, as it has been co-ordinated in the United States of America and in Germany. Why should not the Government summon such a conference in order to advise them on the development of credit facilities, for keeping any necessary supervision upon the industry or trade corporation to which that credit is applied and, lastly, and perhaps more important than all, in order to advise them on the co-ordination of the industrial and economic activities of all sections of industry in this country.
I hope a further opportunity will be given to this House to discuss the question of Imperial development before the next Imperial Conference is summoned, because I think the activities of the Overseas Trade Department compares favourably with the activities of the Colonial Office in discovering markets for our home goods. The Government has a great deal to do in the direction of the development and organisation of the Empire. There is a great danger for our Party to regard the Empire merely as a suitable theme for candidates when they 540 find themselves confronted on platforms by the Union Jack and "Rule Britannia"; but I hope this will not be the case, because our Party has the development of the Empire more at heart as a constructive policy than any other Party, and it should be a subject for every speech dealing with industry and unemployment that any Conservative speaker makes.
§ Mr. WHITELEY
I appreciate the opportunity that has been given to me to state the facts arising out of the three Private Notice Questions that were put to the Minister of Labour and the Secretary of Mines earlier to-day. I am anxious that those Ministers should be able to give us some definite and helpful information, because we are anxious to get into motion that spirit of good-will which is talked about so much on the other side. I happen to be Chairman of the County Federation of Labour Parties in Durham, and I have some very important meetings tomorrow in order to deal with three phases of the matter that was raised this morning. It has fallen to my lot to try to put the matter before the House within the terms of the Amendment to the Address. The Government appear to be still very anxious as to the number of unemployed in this country. It is very gratifying to us in the County of Durham to know that we have had a few men re-started in recent days. But there are still many idle collieries, and, while all the men of the collieries are anxious to start work, they are being prevented from starting because they consider that the conditions which the employers are putting forward are extraordinary and very unjust.
We hold that as the Government are giving a subsidy to the mine owners to pay wages and maintain profits, the Mines Department ought to be instructed by the Government to take action in all these cases with a view of getting to know the facts and seeing. What the pits are reopened in the interests of the nation. It may be information to the House to know of a very large colliery in Durham under a very prosperous and important firm. In the financial year 1918–1919 that firm paid 35 per cent. dividend, and, in addition, gave 200 per cent. as capitalised bonus. In the next year it paid 12½ per cent. on the lot. Under that firm to-day there is a large colliery idle. The manager has been 541 dismissed because he refused to put before the men certain conditions, and the colliery is idle. Yet the Secretary for Mines has taken absolutely no interest in the matter. Nor have the Government. These are some of the things that ought to be brought to the notice of the Government with a view of making them have some form of inquiry into these extreme cases.
We say, too, that the Minister of Labour is taking an extreme line in deciding in every instance that the men have no case, that there is a trade dispute, whether he knows the facts or not, and in refusing to pay unemployment benefit. What is happening is this: If an employer makes an offer to the workmen at any colliery or in any other industry, it does not matter whether the offer is in keeping with particular agreements, local, district or national, as soon as the employer informs the Employment Exchange that an offer has been made, the Exchange people decide that the men are not entitled to benefit. We say that that is absolutely unfair. What should happen first of all is that the men should have an opportunity of receiving benefit, then a proper inquiry ought to be made into the causes of the stoppage, and then a decision should be reached on the facts as to whether the men should have continued unemployment benefit or not. At present the workman is always placed in the wrong; we are always wrong. Although we have contributed to this particular fund we have never any rights in the eyes of the Minister of Labour and the employing classes.
There is a further point. The Minister of Health also is extraordinarily extreme in his judgment of the working classes of this country. It was pointed out this morning, when the Private Notice Questions were put, that it was very unfair that men should not receive unemployment benefit when, through circumstances over which they had no control, they had reached a low state of physical inefficiency. In such cases the Minister of Health ought at least to see that proper provision is made by the local boards of guardians, so that these people do not starve, or get into a condition that will make it impossible for them to resume work when work is available. In spite of the Merthyr Tydvil judgment, ordinary common sense demands that the Minister 542 of Health should have some care for the citizens of this country who get into a condition that will lead to such physical weakness as will make them ineffective as workmen.
Last December, when this trouble was just commencing and before it was becoming acute, I took part in a Debate in this House and pointed out what was likely to arise as a result of the attitude of the various Departments, and I then asked the Departments to co-operate with a view of overcoming or preventing many of the difficulties that have arisen since. Nothing has been done. That is why I and my colleagues felt that it was ineffective to take part in this Debate to-day. We are anxious to keep within the rules of this House, and we have agreed with Mr. Speaker that we will take part in this Debate for the purpose of stating the circumstances arising out of the particular difficulty mentioned. I am anxious because as a result of the destitution and lack of food—the Minister of Health will have these particulars—smallpox is becoming very prevalent in the county of Durham. In my own division, Dr. Hill, the County Medical Officer, states in a report in this morning's Press that an extraordinarily large number of people in the Blaydon area are suffering from smallpox, and we are led to believe by medical testimony that it is because the people are not getting the nourishment which will enable them to throw off disease. That is another phase which the Minister of Health ought to take into consideration.
Alter all, we say that the present system of running industry has failed to meet the ordinary requirements of the working classes of the country. That is why we believe that our Amendment will be very helpful in the reorganisation of industry. The hon. Member who has just spoken wanted to know what was the Labour party policy with regard to the reorganisation of industry. If he had kept up with the times he would have seen that the Labour movement has presented to the Coal Commission a real scheme for the reorganisation of the mining industry. With all our faults we have at least tried to make our contribution to the problem. What have the employing class contributed? Their only contribution is a demand that there shall be lower wages or longer hours.
543 Whether the hon. Member agrees with our policy or not, he must give us credit for trying to find a way out of the difficulties which encompass us. We are not merely trying to create an atmosphere in the country, or to become a great power in the nation's politics. But we are endeavouring, with our experience, to find a way out of difficulties not of our own creation, but created by the existing system. We are trying to help the citizens of this country to a higher standard of life, and we know that our present difficulties will continue and will become more acute until the workers have a greater purchasing power, and opportunities of a fuller citizenship. The Prime Minister has sat through this Debate up to now, and I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman has been compelled to leave while I have been putting these few points. I hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, in the spirit of goodwill and fellowship, would give me something to take back with me to Durham to-morrow. I feel that I have a great responsibility. I want to give our people the right lead, and I want the Government to realise the situation which I and my colleagues have to face. I hope they will at least give us some hope which will enable us to overcome our difficulties.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
I have listened to the whole of this Debate, as I have listened to all the Debates on unemployment in this House during the last three years, and I think the tone of this Debate marks a considerable advance upon the tone of previous Debates on the subject. The Tory party and the Labour party seem less anxious to claim that they have a, panacea for the evils of unemployment. Yesterday the Tory party were at particular pains to disclaim the suggestion that at the last Election they professed to have the means of curing unemployment; and the form of the Amendment to the Address is in this respect also very much cut down from the form of a similar Amendment a couple of years ago. The dispute as regards the State and the individual is an academic one, and is as old as the hills. But we are now up against actualities. We have to face a state of things unparalleled in our history, and I feel sure the country is ready to accept any measure, once it is convinced that that measure will cure the 544 ills from which we suffer. As regards the Labour party's proposals, we on these benches, before accepting them, must be convinced that those proposals will do all that they claim to do. It is not enough to repeat and to assert. We want convincing arguments. With the first part of the Amendment I am in agreement, but as regards the second part., I ask what is the meaning of "essential services." How is that phrase limited, or is it limited at all? The Mover of the Amendment used these words:There are no limits to State interference and State control."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th February, 1926; col. 370, Vol. 191.]I feel inclined to qualify that statement by saying that there must be limits of experience and common sense. We all agree that certain matters are better managed by the State or by municipalities; but it does not follow that, because supplies of water, electricity and gas are better managed in this way, or because railways might be better managed by the State, therefore all other forms of industry would be better under State management. Each one must be considered on its merits; and once we are convinced that it is to the benefit of the community that any particular industry should be under State or municipal management then I am with hon. Members above the Gangway in regard to that industry. I cannot, however, accept the general proposition that all industry requires fundamental reorganisation on those lines, without any limit. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), whose speeches always interest the House because of the broad humanity in them, suggested that it would be as easy to organise a food supply as a water supply. There I join issue with him. You can lay on water through a tap, but you cannot lay on bread and butter in the same way. A considerable amount of argument will be required to convince me that a food supply can be organised municipally or by the State on the same lines as a water supply. I give that instance to show that these matters separately must be the subjects of argument and agreement. I feel sure that nobody in this country who was convinced that it would benefit the community if a particular industry were managed municipally or by the State would object to its being so managed.
545 We are all Socialists nowadays—it is only a question of degree. The hon. Member for Aberdeen Eastern (Mr. Boothby) suggested subsidies and Protection. That is his form of Socialism. Hon. Members above the Gangway suggest the reorganisation of all industry on the lines of democratic control. I say there are certain things which can be better managed so, and there are other things which would not be better managed in that way. I am ready to be convinced in each particular case. A remarkable appeal was put forward yesterday by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) and it was received in a sympathetic manner by the Minister of Labour. We are all impressed with the futility of the Debates on this question during the last three years. We have talked about unemployment and the extent to which it has gone up or down, but how much further have we got? Has not the time come when we should take the question out of the party conflict altogether, instead of having one party bidding against another with proposals for curing it? Is it not a question which should be placed outside party feelings and submitted to Members of all parties sitting round a common table and doing their best to solve it as a great national difficulty? We did that successfully with our difficulties in time of war; we are confronted with a difficulty as great as any of those now in time of peace. We are not tied by our Constitution in any rigid manner; it is alwaysBroadening down from precedent to precedent.And with this great national difficulty facing us surely we shall be able to rise to the occasion and find means of grappling with it.
§ Sir FRANK MEYER
While I agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton), that on the question of tackling the difficult problem of unemployment a measure of agreement between all parties would be most desirable, I am bound to confess that there is so wide a gap between the economic beliefs of those who sit on this side of the House and those who sit on the Labour benches that I cannot look forward with any very great degree of hope to any conference of the kind suggested. We have had a number of 546 speeches this morning from Members of the Opposition dealing with various aspects of this problem, but I think there was only one which really applied itself closely to the subject of this Amendment. The speech of the hon. Member for the Blaydon Division (Mr. Whiteley) was really more a speech that might have been delivered on the Vote for the Ministry of Labour or the Ministry of Health, and did not deal with the subject matter of the matter of the Amendment to any great extent. We had from the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Dalton) something in the nature of a lecture, in which he poured scorn and criticism unreservedly on bankers, business men, and all of that calibre. I am sorry he is not in his place now, because there was one point which he made that I should like to deal with briefly. He stated that the result of investigations by business men in America proved that the proportion of failures in business in various branches of industry varied from, say, 60 to 80 per cent., the cause being bad management, and he adduced that as an argument against private enterprise.
I do not think that was a very logical argument. It will be generally admitted that failures are, I should have said, in 90 per cent. of the cases due to bad management, but that does not mean that private enterprise is a failure. You can get bad management under public control just as under private enterprise. All that it means is this, that in America, where, on the whole, business at the present time is very prosperous and successful, there is a certain amount of failure, and that failure is due to bad management, and under the competitive system those who manage their businesses badly go to the wall and their places are taken by those who manage them successfully. In this country, no doubt, at the present time, with the depression which is on us, the proportion of failures which could be put down to bad management would be lower, because there are other circumstances—and I leave on one side altogether the question of whether the working men are responsible—such as the failure of our foreign trade as compared with before the War, or heavy burdens for War debts, pensions, and so on, which may bring about failures in this country. But I cannot see that the argument of the hon. Member for Peckham that these failures are in a large proportion due to 547 bad management is in any sense a reflection upon private enterprise. It seems to me more in the nature rather of an obvious fact.
I listened with great interest yesterday to the speech of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), and I listened with especial interest to that part of his speech which he devoted to a criticism of the Government's proposals for dealing with agriculture. I had hoped that he would develop more closely the proposals which he and his party would endeavour to bring into practice if they had the opportunity of dealing with agriculture, but, apart from forestry, he did not deal in detail with those proposals. I cannot ask him, as he is not here, but I should like to ask those of his party who are present exactly what their proposal is with regard to the nationalisation of land is it their proposal that all property in land should be taken away from private individuals and handed over to the State? Are there to be no freeholders, or is it only the big landlord who is to be expropriated? If so, where is the dividing line? Is it 1,000 acres, 500 acres, 100, 50, or 10 acres? It is very difficult, unless you lay down a principle that no one is to have private property in land, to know how you are going to deal with that subject.
Again, is there or is there not to be compensation? No doubt, if all land could be confiscated without compensation it would make the task of those who then cultivated the land without rent considerably easier. But I can hardly believe that the right hon. Gentleman, as one who has had the experience of high office, and who is in so many respects a financial purist, could contemplate a measure which, whether just or economically sound I do not know, would at any rate destroy the whole basis of confidence and credit in this country, and, as he well know without credit and without confidence no country can prosper or carry on trade with foreign countries for any length of time. I want to know, too, why it is suggested that a man should cultivate better if he is a tenant of the State than if he own his own farm or small holding. That has never appeared to me to have been explained satisfactorily from the benches opposite, and it seems to me that 548 the prospect of improving your own land and holding for yourself and for those who come after you is a far greater inducement than to co so for the sake of the community, if the land belonged to the community.
On a previous day, not on this Amendment, but in the course of the Debate on the Gracious Speech, I listened to a very interesting speech from the right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley). I always listen to his speeches with the greatest of interest, poking upon him, as I do, as probably the future leader of some party which, whether described as Communist or extreme Socialist or Revolutionary, will, at some time in the near future, break off from the present Labour party as a whole. Looking upon him as the leader of that movement, and as one who has openly preached that he wants an army of 10,000,000 men to fight the class war, I always listen to his pronouncements with the greatest of interest. He brought forward again the theory, which he has propounded on previous occasions, that the real cause of unemployment, distress, and poverty in this country is not the comparative poverty of our overseas customers as compared with their pre-War states, but the fact that there is not a purchasing power among the working classes in this country. I gathered from is speech that his remedy was that legislation, by State action, the purchasing power of the working classes should be raised—I hope I do not in any way misinterpret him—in other words, a national minimum wage, by legislation, based, not on what appears to be at present the economic possibility of individual industries, but on what, in the opinion of unbiassed people, is considered to be a living wage, enabling a man and his family to live in comfort.
If that can be done, and if that be a solution of unemployment, it seems to me that you must make that argument to its logical conclusion. Assume that such an impartial committee decided that a proper living wage for a working man, at present prices, was £5 a week. At the same time you would obviously have to bring in legislation to fix prices, because it is no good giving a man a minimum wage of £5 a week if, as a result of a rise in prices due to the rise in wages, his real wage is no longer any better than it was before. You would 549 have to fix maximum prices, and you must fix a minimum wage, and, according to the right hon. Gentleman, you then increase the purchasing power of the working classes, and that is your solution for unemployment. If that be correct, why stop at £5? Why not £10? If, every time you increase the wage, you increase the purchasing power, why not raise it until you make them all Super-taxpayers? Then you collect their tax and Super-tax, and that enables you to provide subsidies for the industries which otherwise, owing to the rise in wages, would go out of existence.
Seriously, that seems to me the logical conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman's proposition. If you raised wages artificially to a minimum level by legislation, it is quite clear—and I think hon. Members opposite will admit this—that industries such as I have mentioned, shipbuilding, textile, iron and steel, all the great industries of the country, which, we will admit, for the moment are depressed, would probably go out of existence. Mills, mines, furnaces and shipyards would shut down. I am sure the right hon. Member for Shettleston would not permit that. He would say that they are essential services, and the State must carry them on. In order to do that, the State must provide money, and that money in the form of subsidies could only be raised from the prosperous industries. You would have to tax those prosperous industries to provide the money for the others, and so you would get into a continuous vicious circle. I would like to hear at some time the right hon. Gentleman take the argument he advanced the other day to its logical conclusion, and see whether he could counter what appears to me the logical conclusion to which I have taken it to-day. I ask him, and I ask those who cheered his speech the other day, is this the new economic policy, the N.E.P. of the Labour party at the present time? If it is, do the right hon. Member for Colne, Valley (Mr. Snowden), the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) or the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Dalton), who are theoretical economists, agree, and, if not, in what respect do their conclusions differ from mine?
In conclusion, I do think there is a great deal in common in viewing this aspect of unemployment, bad housing 550 and low wages. On all sides of the House it is admitted that these are problems which have got to be faced; they distress every one of us. We all want to find a remedy. Our only difference is as to the remedy to be found. We on this side cannot believe that to do away with private enterprise is going to cure those evils. We believe that unless you have got that incentive to personal gain, you will never get a country increasing its wealth and prosperity. It may be very wrong. It would be very much better, no doubt, if everybody worked unselfishly for the community. But people are not made like that at the present time at any rate. After all, people, in 99 cases out of 100, do not seek private gain in order to hoard, but they do it to improve themselves, to benefit their children and to surround themselves with beautiful things. Those are the reasons why people, from the lowest to the highest, want to acquire wealth, and if you do away with that incentive you do away with any incentive to a country to become prosperous.
The party opposite always lay down that these conditions are due to capitalism. When they say "capitalism," I think they mean private enterprise, because capital is required in whatever way industry is organised. I say these are unfortunate conditions, which have grown up in spite of private enterprise Look at America, the home of private enterprise, where the conditions of the working classes are better than in any other country in the world, and then look at Russia, which has now had 10 years of communal enterprise, where the conditions of the working classes certainly do not compare with the conditions in America, and do not even compare, I think, with the unfortunate conditions which prevail in many districts of this country. An ounce of fact is worth a ton of theory, and it does seem to me that this kind of enterprise offers the only solution which can increase the wealth of the world as a whole, and thereby increase the wealth of those who live in it.
§ Mr. DENNISON
I should not have intervened in this Debate but for an observation in what was otherwise a useful contribution by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Lloyd) in the Debate yester- 551 day. I feel sure he would not like to mislead anybody. I read from the report of his speech the following:This country has deliberately set itself to establish and maintain a higher standard of living. In that endeavour employers and employed in the greater industries have stood loyally together. In the great industries like the coal trade and the iron and steel trade the position to-day is that, working on that loyal understanding in the observance of wage agreements, those industries have been run to a standstill, or are being run to a standstill, rather than that the employers' side should seek to lower the standard of wages."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th February, 1926; col. 412, Vol. 191.]There are two implications, if not definite assertions, in that particular statement. One is that the workpeople in the iron and steel industry are on a higher standard of living than before the War, and that the employers have not interfered with the wages of the workpeople during that period. Consider the facts. The principal sliding scale which regulates the wages in the iron and steel trade, namely, the North of England sliding scale, stood at 11¼ per cent. in August 1914, and to-day that sliding scale only stands at 26¼ per cent. The percentage value of the scale is no more than 13½ per cent. over pre-War, to meet an increased cost of living, which is standing to-day at 75 per cent. over pre-War. The statement of the hon. Member for Dudley, who, I am sorry, is not here to-day, is not a statement of fact, and is bound to create more than normal discontent if it is put about in the iron and steel industry of this country. That hon. Member is an eminent and usually well-informed representative of the iron and steel industry on the employers' side, and I want to suggest that he cannot be speaking, surely, for the whole of the iron and steel employers in this country, when he suggests that the employers have stuck to a bargain made between the workpeople and themselves in respect of the regulation of wages, and that these wage agreements ought to be scrapped. I cannot conceive that is the view of the employers as a whole.
It must be borne in mind that those agreements have been in existence something like 30 years in many cases, and have been very largely responsible for a great measure of contentment in the trade as compared with other industries, 552 and it is unwise, I would suggest, in whatever part of the House the observation should be made, to imply that these agreements, which have stood the test of time, should be lightly set aside. The part that the workpeople in the iron and steel trade have played has been that they have not only submitted to considerable reduction in their wages under the sliding scale arrangement, but in co-operation with the employers have considerably increased their output over the pre-War standard. I want to make this observation particularly to the Government Front Bench; their policy of giving a subsidy to the coal trade is having a very serious effect in the way of lowering the wages of the workpeople in the iron and steel trade. Hon. Members may know that we have a wages agreement in the iron and steel trade. By that agreement wages are regulated by the rise and fall of the price that the employers and manufacturers are able to get for the sale of their material. By the giving of the coal trade subsidy the iron and steel manufacturer has been able to purchase his coal cheaper. Very often he is a steel manufacturer and a colliery proprietor as well, and hence has been able to sell his own coal cheaper to himself for the purposes of iron and steel manufacture. The effect of that has been that since October last the wages of the iron and steel workers have fallen by ll¼ per cent. under the trade sliding scale. I assert that 64 per cent. of that reduction in the work-people's wages in the steel trade is due entirely to the policy of the Government in subsidising the coal trade. Obviously it is so. It only needs, I think, to be stated to be accepted as a general proposition by the House.
If the Government suggest that the only remedy they hive is to continue that subsidy I think that we on the Labour benches have a right to put a question to the Government. If they are going to subsidise the coalowners we are entitled, as representing the workpeople in the iron and steel industry, to ask the Government to subsidise the wages of the iron and steel workers. If suggestions are asked as to how to improve the industry I would include one to the effect that there might be considerably improved co-ordination, not only amongst the employers themselves, but that there is plenty of room for improvement in the 553 methods of management in the industry, though it may be as well managed as most other industries. Again, the trade suffers the considerable and heavy burden of royalty rents. It is difficult to get at the actual amount of the burden imposed on the manufacture of iron and steel, but I have heard it quoted as low as 3s. 2d. and as high as 10s. 10d. per ton on steel where the higher grade ores are used. The Government, in their endeavour to get some relief to one of the most important industries in the country, should consider the very earnest need of removing that handicap from a struggling industry. I thought it well that the statement made yesterday should not go any length of time unchallenged. Therefore, I have said to-day what I have said.
§ Colonel WOODCOCK
If there is anything that has characterised the whole of the Debate on this Amendment, with very few exceptions. I think it is that the whole House has felt the note of conciliation running through what has been said by the various speakers. Yesterday the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) made reference to the same point, He indicated how very different was the spirit of this Debate from that of two or three years ago, when a Socialist Amendment was also before the House. May I also say that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), who moved the Amendment, was also one which appealed, in a very great measure, to many Members on this side of the House. They will, I think, in general terms agree with a great deal of what he said. The speech was delivered in a tone which we do not always get from the right hon. Gentleman. He put forward a spirit of conciliation which has put this Debate on a different plane to Debates which we have had before on Socialism.
There was one point he made at the beginning, one which he wished to emphasise very much to Members of this party, and that was, that the Unionist party had a positive remedy for unemployment. It was, we understood, given in the famous official manifesto which, he says, he has in his possession, and which I shall be very glad indeed if he will let me see. I do not remember 554 seeing it. If I did, and if it happened to have been in my possession, it was the second and not the first edition of it. The right hon. Gentleman said that hon. Members connected with the Unionist party in this House did not read all the literature, that they circulate at Election times. I am sure they do not. It would take up too much time. It takes up far too much time to read the literature which our opponents put into the divisions at Election times. Certainly, the Mover of the Amendment never has time to read all the literature published on the various points. I want to say this: that there are many Members on this side of the House who have never beard of the manifesto referred to, and, I am certain, have not seen it. I hope no more points will be made about it. In looking through the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, I note that he deplores the great unemployment. Every Member of this House does, too. He says theydemand a fundamental reorganisation of industry on the lines of public ownership and democratic control of the essential services.We know that for many years Members on the opposite side of the House have advocated throughout the country the municipalisation of all essential services. What I want to point out to the right hon. Gentleman is that all the services that have been operated by municipal enterprise are far from being successful.
§ Colonel WOODCOCK
The right hon. Gentleman tells us he would run the whole of the enterprises by the municipal authorities because they are such great successes. I agree with him when he says that where private interests are incompatible with public interests that the private interests should give way. Everybody would subscribe to that sentiment. But if the municipal authorities are to run services, as he proposes, they must run them in a way that is to be in the public interest, and on lines that are going to be equal or better than those run by the companies. He referred to the remarks often made about men having a stake in the country. If everybody, it is said, had a stake in the country—he 555 was quoting Lord Salisbury, they would become better Tories.Give a man a stake in the country and you make him into a good Tory."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th February, 1926; col. 372, Vol. 191.]That does not agree with a system of municipalisation. He will see many instances in his own party where, if it has not made a good Tory of the man, it has made a better citizen. When they have a small stake in the country it at once commences to sober down some of the Socialistic ideas they put forward in this House and elsewhere.
I wish to refer next to what the right hon. Gentleman said about electricity undertakings. He told us of a case where an employer whose premises were on one side of the street had to pay almost twice as much for his electricity as a man on the other side of the street. The right hon. Gentleman very well knows the reason for that. It is elementary knowledge that where an electrical undertaking can command both a day and a night load it can be run more economically than an undertaking which has a night load only in the case he referred to, the supply of electricity to the premises on one side of the street came from an electric station in a district where the whole of the daytime industries are using electricity and which electrical station therefore, has both a day load and a night load. That electricity undertaking referred to which enjoys most favourable conditions for economical working, was able to supply electricity at 1.45d. per unit. In the case of the station supplying electricity to the other side of the road the lighting load is the chief factor, there is not a daytime load, and therefore its customers have to pay almost double for their electricity. If the Government carry through their scheme of co-ordination it will be of the greatest benefit all round, and the man on one side of the road will not be left in such an unfavourable position by contrast with the man on the other side of the road.
If the public provision of electricity by municipalities is to be better than that of the companies they must either produce electricity more cheaply or they must be able to make some contribution from their earnings towards the rates. I 556 will take two or three sets of figures from the Electricity Commission's Report to show the comparison between the charges of municipalities and companies. In the case of Stepney, which was quoted as an instance of what a municipality can accomplish, electricity is supplied at 1.45d. per unit. That is a case where they have a day and a night load—where they have those exceptional advantages I have referred to. But Stepney is not the only place where industrial and other concerns are supplied with very cheap electricity. At Newcastle a private company supplying a very large area, supplies electricity at .76d. per unit, almost half the price at Stepney. Take Lancashire—.95d. per unit. Take the Mersey Electrical Company—.79d. per unit. North Wales .99d. per unit. There are four companies which are supplying electricity at less than a penny per unit.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Colonel WOODCOCK
I do not know where they get their coal. I am referring to the price at which they sell their electricity, that is the point. Let us take the charges of municipalities. From the right hon. Gentleman's remarks one would think that all the electricity supplied by municipalities was supplied at the same price as it is in Stepney, of 1.45d. per unit. Barrow-in-Furness charges 7d. per unit, Bristol 5½d., with a very small contribution to the rates. Two principal undertakings.
§ Colonel WOODCOCK
The average for power and lighting. These figures are taken from the statement on municipal authorities' undertakings issued by the City Treasurer of Preston. The figures are the average of the two charges. At Bradford the price is 6¾d., with a small contribution to the rates; East Ham, 6½d., and no contribution to the rates; Bath, 6½d. and £1,000 to the rates; Grimsby, 8½d.; Halifax, 7d. Torquay, 10d.
§ Colonel WOODCOCK
I am taking a few cases to show that the right hon. Gentleman cannot prove to us that in all cases cheap electricity will 557 not be forthcoming because municipal authorities provide it, and that by municipalising the supply it is going to be cheaper than it is under private enterprise. The figures I have read out will show that in a majority of cases companies are supplying electricity much cheaper, and if municipal authorities are going to justify what they set out to do, namely to supply equally as well as the companies, they must either supply it cheaper or contribute in some measure to the rates as a quid pro quo. In most cases municipal authorities do not comply with these conditions. Two or three other figures can be given—Chelsea, 7d. per unit, Lewisham 6d., Woolwich 6d. The Westminster Company—a private company—are supplying at 3¾. per unit.. Therefore, I submit, the case made out by the right hon. Gentleman will not stand examination in many areas; and in my opinion electricity is better worked by private enterprise than by the municipal authorities.
Take the case of tramways as run by private companies and by municipal enterprise. I know that hon. Members can quote several instances where municipal tramways are very successful in providing relief for the rates, but in the majority of cases they are a burden on the rates, and a big burden. Hon. Members may shake their heads, but I can produce figures to set against the two or three cases in which profits are made. There are many cases where they are a burden on the rates. When companies run tramways they run them on more onerous terms than municipal authorities do. When companies run them they have to pay for the maintenance of the track between the lines.
§ Colonel WOODCOCK
In some cases the municipal authorities have to—perhaps the London County Council do—but not in all cases. I am told that the London United Tramways have to contribute £30,000 to the rates. Does a municipal authority pay rates to itself? Oh, no! The sum of £200,000 was spent by the London United Tramways Company in 1924 upon maintenance and upkeep of the tramway track. What I wish to show is that in the majority of cases private enterprise has predominated in 558 regard to efficiency and cheapness as compared with municipal undertakings.
§ Mr. CHARLETON
Has the hon. and gallant Member ascertained whether the deficits exceed the amount placed to the sinking fund?
§ Colonel WOODCOCK
Yes, the sinking fund contributions are put away to provide for the loan, but it is not equal to the amount put to the amount written off and the reserve. In these cases the sinking fund is not so onerous to municipal undertakings as to private companies who write down large sums for the depreciation of their machinery and add a certain amount to the reserve fund. As regards the financial conditions, all these undertakings are not on such generous terms. Take the case of Barrow. There it takes an 8d. rate to run the trams. In the case of Croydon it costs 10¼d. in the £ on the rates to make up a deficit of over £54,000. East Ham has a deficit of £42,889 on the working of the tramways, and this costs a rate of 1s. 4⅞d. in the £. Nobody will call this sort of enterprise profitable, and it is certainly not in the best interests of the municipal authorities. Private companies could not stand that sort of thing, and if you are going to run municipal enterprises for the good of the community they must be run on similar or better conditions than private enterprise. Hon. Members tell us frequently that in regard to electricity municipal authorities do the work much better than private enterprise, but I do not agree with that argument because I know that in the majority of cases private companies give a better service than do municipal authorities, and in many cases municipal undertakings have to fall back on the rates to keep their undertakings going.
With regard to the state of the coal industry, we have heard a good deal about conciliation. From the Labour Benches we have had speeches which I think will help towards a settlement of these industrial problems, including also the unemployment problem. But I would ask, what is the use of hon. Members opposite, who are undoubtedly doing their utmost to help towards the solution and help forward conciliation in every way, whilst some of their friends are acting almost as agitators, stirring up strife, bad feeling, prejudice and unrest throughout the 559 country, and in many cases those agitators are preaching revolution and upsetting the whole of the country. If what we have heard in this Debate is practised more throughout the country, it will assist the working man to understand these things better, and give him a much wider view in regard to these problems. If the trade unionists will persuade some of the extreme men on their side to be more moderate in their talk throughout the country, I am sure it would be better for the nation and better for the problems which we are trying to solve at the present time. I hope that the spirit we have heard expressed during this Debate will permeate throughout the country, and that it will benefit unemployment in a way that it has not benefited for some time past.
§ Dr. DRUMMOND SHIELS
I agree with what the last speaker has said with regard to the spirit of conciliation which has been shown during the discussion of this Amendment. Indeed, at times I have been inclined to think that there was a serious risk of its being carried, because a considerable amount of agreement has been expressed on all sides with the principle of it, if not with its actual terms. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) ascribed the change which has taken place to the changed attitude of the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, but, in my view, the change is more probably in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley himself as well as in others. It is not sufficiently realised how much public opinion has been educated, and how much even the Members of this House have advanced in the the direction of these principles for which we stand on this side of the House.
In estimating the position of the Labour Party I do not think sufficient stress is generally laid on the effect it has had on the other two parties in the State. Not so long ago, only as far back as 1908, when old age pensions were introduced, we found Conservative Members asserting that 5s. a week for old people would demoralise the working classes of this country. Yet we find that same party last Session bringing in a Widows' Pension Bill applying—however imperfectly—the same principle in another form. Again, 560 the land policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon is only a watered down scheme of the land nationalisation which we have been advocating for many years.
It may be said that it does not matter very much whether we are in office or not so long as our principles are being applied. In actual experience, however we find that when our policy is applied only because of the force of public opinion and not because of deep conviction on the part of those who carry it out, there is inevitably present an element of compromise which destroys the effectiveness of the application. There are vested interests to be considered and the welfare of privileged individuals to be conserved even at the cost of efficiency and public welfare. The result is that while the Socialistic principle certainly applied in a sense, it is applied in such a way as to lessen very largely its effectiveness, and sometimes ever to provide an argument against public ownership. A very striking instance of that was provided last time that electricity proposals were before this House for the erection of superstations throughout the country. Amendments were introduced by private interests which effectively prevented that scheme from being the success that it might have been.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley last night, in referring to factory conditions of 100 years ago, claimed that the changed conditions of to-day were a proof that former conditions were not due to capitalism. But I would point out that the change to-day is only because of the restriction on the free working of capitalism by the increasing application of the principles we on this side of the House hold. Wherever you have unfettered capitalism, you have social wickedness of a bad type. You have that to-day in India and in China, the early conditions of our industrial revolution being repeated there, and that, I think, is an answer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman when he said that many of our troubles store due to the fact that the social conscience awakened later than the start of the industrial revolution, and that, had we had then the social conscience which we have now, these troubles would not have 561 arisen. We have this social conscience now, and yet we have British and other capitalists investing their money in India and in China and obtaining the very highest profits which are possible at the cost of the degradation and misery of the workpeople whom they employ.
I quite agree that the question of public ownership is not without difficulty. We are living at the present time, not in a non-Socialist state, but in a semi-Socialist state. We are living in a period of transition, and, no doubt, in the application of our principles very frequent adjustments will be necessary. These adjustments will go on until the principle is finally accepted and applied that we are producing to meet the needs of the people and not for profit. At the present time, we produce for profit, and the fact that the needs of the people are met is only incidental. They may not, in many cases, be met at all. It is not, therefore, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley said, only a question of demand. You may have the demand, and yet you may have stagnation of trade and unemployment. You may have people unemployed, say, in the boot industry, through overstocked markets, and you may have these very same boot operatives badly shod simply because they have not the money with which to buy the very commodities hat they produce.
The hon. Member for Westmorland (Major Stanley) last night made an interesting speech in which he sang the praises of private enterprise, which he described as the mainspring of industry. Where is private enterprise to-day? Where does it exist? It is very well known that we are living in an age of combines and trusts in almost every department of industry—in tobacco, in thread, in iron and steel, and in others known and unknown. One of the latest to come under this influence is one of the staple industries of my own country, namely, the whisky trade. There is only one firm in Scotland now which is outside the whisky combine, whose capital amounts to many millions. A point which is interesting in that connection is that, whereas before there were many whisky travellers going about seeking orders from licensed grocers, publicans, and so on—I was very nearly saying sinners—now these men are prac- 562 tically eliminated, and the licensed grocers and publicans have to deal direct with the combine, and, instead of their orders being solicited, their demands are supplied almost as a favour, and their profits are cut down while the combine's dividends rise.
These instances could be multiplied indefinitely, and for people to praise the virtues of private enterprise in contradistinction to our proposals is to-day to create a false argument. We do agree that there was a time at the beginning of the industrial revolution when private enterprise was for the advantage of the consumer; but that day has long passed away, and nowadays we do not live under such a system at all. We welcome this tendency! We agree that it is inevitable and that it is in the line of evolution. Co-operation and combination make for economy, and for the elimination of much wasteful expenditure. But we say that the results of this co-operative effort should not be for the benefit of a few people, but for the benefit of the whole of the community. The Conservative party is always putting forward the plea for ownership as being the best solution of many of our difficulties—to own houses, land, and so on. We claim that the very widest application of the principle of ownership is to be found in our policy, because then everyone would have a share in the whole of the public wealth and property of the nation. We would each have some feeling of ownership of many things which are far outside our ken at the present time. After all, the great capitalist combines of to-day are run and managed by paid servants who themselves have no prospect of ever owning anything more than the ordinary working class of this country. The whole tendency, the inevitable tendency, of industry makes it quite impossible for these ideas of the Conservative party of widespread small ownership to be anything more than a pious hope.
The hon. and gallant Member for Everton (Colonel Woodcock), who spoke last, was unfortunate in taking up the matter of municipal services. There is no question at all about the value of municipal trading and municipal enterprises generally. He can be very well answered by many on his own side who have taken part in municipal work and who have engaged in municipal socialism. It is 563 very remarkable that we have people in the city councils who stand for election, telling the electors that they must beware of these terrible Socialists, and then they themselves go back and carry out Socialistic enterprises. There is one well-known Member of this House who is an Alderman of Leeds, a fine old crusted Tory, and yet one of the greatest protagonists of municipal enterprise, who, at present, is standing up for municipal omnibuses against the private trader. We have in the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Health one of the pioneers of municipal socialism, one of those responsible for the first municipal bank, which is only the forerunner of many others, and who, in defending such an institution, declared that he did not care if it were described as Socialism.
The City of Birmingham, indeed, has given a lead to other parts of the country in the application of our principles to municipal life.
In that connection I think some of the speakers have made the mistake of always harping on nationalisation. We are not committed to nationalisation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—not for everything. We believe in nationalisation for the essential national industries, such as mines, railways, and land, but, with regard to other matters, we know that many services are better controlled and more efficiently managed when they are carried out in a smaller area. All that we want is that the community should have the control and the management, and that the services should be run according to the needs of the people, and not for the benefit of private individuals or companies. I think municipal Socialistic activity on the part of Liberals and Conservatives may, perhaps, be explained by the alleged fact that everyone is nine tenths a Socialist; but, if that be so, the one-tenth provides a very considerable difficulty in many cases.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) made a great deal of the fact that a national industry like that of coal, which has a foreign market, would be very difficult to run nationally. He pointed out that international marketing was a very complicated business, and we agree. We think it is much too complicated; we think that there are too many people 564 involved in it, and too many interests to be considered, and that it would be a very much simpler business if it were run by the State. It would be possible now, and easier in the future, for, after all, it must be remembered that our principles are to apply, not only to this country, but to all countries. Our system is international, and we hope ultimately to achieve the result that each country will be able naturally to supply other countries with that portion of its surplus products which other countries require. We shall then have a free intercourse which is now prevented by tariffs and other devices, so that we shall secure, through the application of our system, not only national and worldwide economic benefit, but also a greater possibility of international brotherhood.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) said last night what some other Members have said, namely, that America is a very great example to us, and he made several reflections on our Labour movement in relation to the situation in America. Of course, it is very well known that America has not yet fully utilised all her natural resources, and still has markets for her manufactured goods. But the population of America is increasing at a very rapid rate, and America will have her own time of difficulty to face in the future. We do, however, say this, that the American business man is a great example to the business man in this country in his view of wages. The American manufacturer believes in high wages. The hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Sir F. Meyer), who spoke about an hour ago, and who made, I thought, a very excellent and well-reasoned speech against our position, quoted my right hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley, and put forward rather a reductio ad absurdum argument in regard to his proposal for increased wages for the working classes. But Mr. Ford, who employs 42,000 men in America, and is well known as a very successful manufacturer, has found that by paying high wages he has been enabled to lower the cost of production.
We hear a great deal of criticism here about the trade unions, about ca' canny in the workshop and so on, but, if a man is badly paid, if he feels that he is being unjustly treated, if he has not enough to 565 give him a proper standard of life, it is not surprising that he does not work as well as he might. The experience of Mr. Ford and other manufacturers in America has been that when they have increased wages—of course there is a certain limit—their output has increased and the cost of production has been lowered. If only the members of the Federation of British Industries in this country will take a leaf out of that book, they will find that capitalism in this country, just as in America, will be able to prolong its life a little longer. Otherwise, they will be faced with constant and justifiable discontent.
We have no reason to be dissatisfied with the increasing acceptance of our principles and with the progress which we have made. We might be well content to leave matters to their natural evolution and development, were it not for the fact that such large masses of our people to-day are in terrible misery and distress. We have had several expressions of the truth of that from hon. Members on this side, and I do feel that the condition of affairs to-day is very urgent.
If hon. Members wish to justify and prolong the present system, and to preserve the life of capitalism a little longer, they will find it to their interest to see that the proverty and destitution which is menacing so many of our people to-day is swept away. We are, no doubt, creating many desperate people throughout this country, and the result might be that, instead of the prolongation and modification of capitalism and a gradual evolution into Socialism, we shall have Socialism brought about in a way which I, at least, do not consider to be the best way in which it can be brought about. I do trust that the Government will face the position, and that, instead of assisting those misguided capitalists who think the proper way to help the industry of this country is to crush down the rate of wages of the working class, they will try and proceed in the other way, so that the first charge on industry shall be a decent standard of life for all the people of this country.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
With the appeal that has fallen from the last speaker I find myself in complete agreement. When he said that low wages are apt to mean poor work, I think that that is the experience of all the great manu- 566 facturers of the world. It is one of the things that I observed in America, that, in the industries which were paying high wages, there was a great deal more contentment with the quality and the quantity of the work that was being given in return for those wages than in other industries where the wages were lower. I think it is the very greatest mistake in the world to imagine that a country is going to gain by a reduction in wages. It reduces the purchasing quality of the working classes, and it does more than that—it reduces the quality of the working classes themselves. I have always thought that that was a great mistake.
That, however, has nothing whatever to do with the merits or demerits of the proposition put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coins Valley (Mr. Snowden) to the House. I find myself in the same difficulty in regard to this Amendment as my right hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), although my difficulty is less than his. Last night, this proposition had been recommended to the House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley in a speech, if I may say so, of conspicuous power and great moderation. He did not expound the Amendment; he did not dwell upon what I call the operative Clauses. Since then, other speeches have been delivered which have emphasised the latter part of the Amendment.
I watched my right hon. Friend while a speech was being delivered by the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Dalton), and he reminded me of what I, as an old solicitor, have seen happen many a time in Court, where you have a very skilful, experienced old counsel, who puts the points that will influence the jury, and very carefully avoids those that are likely to create prejudice in the minds of the jury. He is on the look-out for a verdict. And then up jumps an excitable junior who, with crude zeal, puts all the points and thinks that is the way to please the solicitor, and by that means loses the case. I have seen that happen many and many a time in Court, and the expression on the face of my right hon. Friend is the expression I have seen on many a counsel in Court when his junior was addressing the jury. Unfortunately, I have to deal with the case which has been developed 567 so far. My right hon. Friend has an advantage over the hon. Member for Peckham. He has been in Socialism for over 30 years. He knows all about it. He is, no doubt, a very convinced Socialist, just as convinced as ever, but he also knows the difficulties—the practical, not the theoretical, ones—and he has had some experience of affairs. He therefore presented a moderate case, having regard to the possibilities. The hon. Member for Peckham, I think, is rather new at it.
§ Mr. DALTON
May I inform the right hon. Gentleman that I have been a member of the Socialist party since 1906?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Well, 1906 is not so very long ago. The right hon. Gentleman was a member of the Socialist party when there were very few Socialists. I remember him in this House putting the case for Socialism when there were very few here, and he was about the only one who did it at that time. Therefore, naturally, he has not the fanatical zeal of the novitiate. Perhaps the hon. Member will forgive me for speaking disrespectfully of him in that way. But there is the advantage in it that he has really begun to explain to us exactly what the proposals are. To the first part of the Amendment I certainly have no objection. On the contrary I agree with it entirely. I am entirely in agreement about the deplorable state of trade and the scanty indications of any improvement in trade. I very much regret to say I agree with that.
The House must bear in mind that trade has been artificially fostered by a very considerable subsidy, which has had a very considerable effect not merely in coal, but in steel, and in the engineering trade. If that is taken away and if you take out of account the very great pressure that has been brought to bear to depress the unemployed returns, I am afraid I must agree with my right hon. Friend that there are scanty indications of improvement, and I regret it. I think everyone must regret it and hope that better times will come. But when it comes to the latter end of the Amendment—and after all that is the thing that matters—what is it we are committed to? We are committed to a declaration that 568 all this demands a fundamental reorganisation of industry on the lines of public ownership and democratic control of essential services. It is a perfectly fair way to state what the issues are. I do not in the least shrink from the hon. Member's challenge on that. When he talks about people standing on the fence, I think I have got well away from the fence, but I have seen men in 1924 who just clung to the fence with both arms and were frightened of leaving it, and I am not at all sure the hon. Member was not one of them. At any rate those jeers are of no use. Whatever the position is we stated it quite clearly.
The hon. Member was very courageous when he claimed old age pensions as the result of the efforts of the Labour party. When it was first mooted by the distinguished father of the Minister of Health, I had the honour of serving on a Committee that was set up in 1899. There was no Labour party here then. The recommendations of that Committee were recommendations that I had the honour to put through as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1908 and afterwards. That was long before the Labour party exercised any influence upon politics. It is no use putting the claim too high. Every party undoubtedly has an influence upon the decisions of others. It simply means that, after all, that is the advantage of our constitution. Discussion does not merely convert people inside your own party, or to your own party, but it converts people inside other parties, until ultimately we all come together. That is the fortunate history of this country. It has been the fortunate history of this country that very often proposals which have been advocated by one party have ultimately been carried by the other. That is not a suggestion that that party has thrown over its principles. It is the inevitable and, I think, the very beneficent result of government by discussion in a democratic State. Therefore, I do not in the least challenge the hon. Member's statement that the advent of the Labour party and their advocacy of great causes has bad a reaction upon other parties in the State. I think their contact with other parties has moderated their views considerably. I have observed that in the three or four years since they have been a great power in this House.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
What is of importance is the fact that in the end, by the working of democratic institutions, we move along. That is the thing that matters. Now I come to the second part of the Amendment. My right hon. Friend the Member for Come Valley, very skilfully, did not dwell too much upon that, and for very good reasons. He has in his mind the possibility that one day he will be called upon to put all this into operation. You can only make your dykes with such divots as you can get, as they say in Scotland. Hon. Members will perhaps excuse me; the accent is Welsh, although I am trying to quote a Scottish proverb. My right hon. Friend knows perfectly well that one has to consider, not only political force, but political possibilities. He knows that when he has to put into operation the programme which has been spread in array by his more amateurish follower to-day, he will find that it is something that is not within the realms of possibility. Therefore he confined himself to practical propositions.
What are these essential services to which he referred? What does democratic control mean? These are the two propositions to which we have been asked to give our assent. I can only quote, in answer, the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Dalton), who has been good enough to tell us what they mean. This is the policy to which we are asked to commit ourselves—nationalisation of banking; nationalisation of mining; nationalisation of transport; nationalisation of land.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I shall have a word to say about that. I can assure my hon. Friend that I am not going to get away from it. Then there is the nationalisation of the purchasing of food supplies for this country. That is to be put under some form of national control. If you purchase food abroad, I suppose you will have to purchase food at home also. It is impossible for you to purchase from the Argentine, Australia and New Zealand and leave out the purchase of food at home. You cannot control the markets. Therefore I am assuming that it means that all of the food supplies of this 570 country are to be under national control, in purchase and in distribution. If we are to regard food as an essential service, I should have thought that in a civilised country clothing was also an essential service. I cannot understand why that should be left out. Wool, cotton and silk: I do not see how you can possibly leave those out if you are going to nationalise essential services.
I should have thought that iron and steel constituted a very essential service. I can conceive of no service that was more essential to the life of the nation during the War than iron and steel. If you nationalise all the essential services, it comes practically to the same thing as the Motion which was put before us by my right hon. Friend years ago in favour of the nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange. There is not very much left. I am bound therefore to look at it from that point of view. I would ask my hon. Friends of the Labour party exactly what they mean. I will take mining and land. I could understand hon. Members saying that the essential raw materials should be nationalised. For instance, minerals are nationalised at the present moment in countries that are run on purely individualistic principles. That is so in Prussia and the Rhineland. I am not at all sure that that is not true of France. [HON. MEMBERS "Yes!"] It is true; very well. It is also true of some of the Dominions. These are countries that are run on purely individualistic lines. I could understand the minerals being nationalised without the industry being nationalised, and I would point out that my hon. Friends of the Labour party are drawing that distinction.
My right hon. Friend yesterday dealt with the land question. I understand that he is in favour of the resumption of the freehold by the State Quite frankly, I have been in favour of that proposition, for the simple reason that there, undoubtedly, private enterprise has completely broken down, very largely because of the taxation of the War, which makes it impossible for landowners in the future to discharge the functions which up to the War the best of them were in a position to discharge, in such matters as the provision of buildings, repairs, drainage, etc. Unless we put in something that will 571 fill up that essential gap the community will suffer. My right hon. Friend does not propose that the industry should be nationalised nor does the hon. Member for Peckham propose that. He does not propose that the agricultural industry should be nationalised in the sense that the mining industry is to be nationalised. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I have never heard anyone say that the farmer was to be put under the State and that he was to be purely in a, stipendiary position to the community, nor have I heard it suggested that the agricultural labourer should be put in that position. Therefore a distinction is drawn. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] There is evidently some confusion of opinion among my hon. Friends. At any rate, I have never heard it proposed in any programme that has ever been put forward by the Labour party. When we come to the mining industry, it is proposed that the industry itself should be under State control.
I want, therefore, to point out that my hon. Friends of the Labour party are not carrying their principles to their logical conclusion when they come to an industry like agriculture, because they realise that everything there depends upon individual effort and upon incentive being given to the individual to do his best to produce, to make a living for himself, and to increase the very narrow margin which any man must have who is cultivating the soil.
When we come to banking, my hon. Friend spoke about those bankers who acted as though they had command of the whole finances and industry of the world. He referred to Mr. Walter Leaf and others. Those are not the people who do the banking. The men who do the banking are the big managers who are in charge of the concern; the real managers, who never appear in public, who do not strut in front of the stage as though they were doing the whole of the financial work of the world. The managers are the men who do the work. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are officials."] They are not Government officials. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are paid servants."] They are paid servants and they are very efficient men. Before we change the whole of the banking system of this country we must 572 look at what it has done, in spite of its many defects.
I agree with a good deal of what was said by my hon. Friend in regard to our banking policy of the last few years. I have always been very doubtful about it. But, on the whole, it is the soundest banking in the whole world. When we remember that, the United States of America with practically the whole of the gold in the world—[HON. MEMBERS "No!"]—well, with a good deal of it and more than is good for them, with gigantic prosperity, and that, our country with a debt of eight thousand million pounds and having borrowed one thousand millions from the United States of America; yet, in spite of that, we hold supremacy as the international money market of the world—that is a very great achievement and no one car, honestly say, in spite of all the other things which have been said, and with which I entirely agree, that, in this respect private enterprise has been a failure.
The real criticism is that it has been too much of a, success from the business point of view. The banks have done very well. They have been too efficient from the point of view of managing their own business. And there is this to be said for them—I think in the long run it will be counted to them for righteousness—that they were able to resist, and successfully resist, the temptations which very nearly ruined Germany and brought France to the brink of financial disaster, and were able to keep the business and finance of this country on rigid and sound lines by which they have restored our credit, so that when trade comes it will be on a basis that cannot be shaken in this country. This must not be forgotten when you criticise the banks, and it is why I cannot see chat a case is made out at the present moment, in spite of all that has been said, and truly said, about the selfish policy which has been pursued by banks, for the contention that they have failed in the course of the last critical 10 years.
I agree that there is a great deal in the existing system that has to be put right, but you do not put it right, by doing something which, in itself is wrong—not wrong in the moral sense, but a mistake. You simply rush from one mistake to another, and you may find that you have made a mistake which is quite irretrievable. This is not a country with 573 infinite natural resources. This is not a country even like Russia. Russia, in spite of all the great disasters of the last few years, has a future which is assured; and it is assured without any reference to the question as to whether Bolshevism is right or not. And why? Russia is a country with infinite natural resources; they will always remain there. Here we have to depend upon trade, finance and merchandise, and once that goes you cannot whistle it back when you have got a better system. Therefore, it is very essential we should proceed very cautiously in experiments which touch our trade, our industry and our finance.
In listening to this Debate one thing has struck me very much, and it is this: that the fundamental differences are not so very great, and that it is really very largely a method of approach. I do not agree with my hon. Friend above the Gangway that there is some deep and wide chasm between us. That is not the way in which British democracy has ever worked out its problems. I listened, or to be more truthful, I read this morning the speech of the Minister of Labour last night, and in this connection may I assure the hon. Member opposite on one point. I was delighted to listen to the independent and fresh speech of the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Hudson). He suggested that my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley and I had had a previous consultation before he delivered his speech last night. I can assure him that I have not had the pleasure of meeting my right hon. Friend for some months, and our agreement simply means one thing: that two intelligent and well informed minds have approached the same problem with an earnest and honest desire to solve it on the right lines. That has happened very often in science; indeed, most of the great scientific inventions have come as the result of two detached people working at the same problem without any consultation at all. I was struck by what the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour said in his speech. This is what he said:When it conies to monopolies, I admit that each case has to be considered on its merits, according to the kind of monopoly we are considering. There may be cases in which you may need to have public control, either State or municipal control."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th February, 1926; Col. 479. Vol. 191.]574 That is not a difference in principle but in application. It is also a difference in time, and the only plea I put in is this. There are two monopolies which the Government have to deal with. One is the monopoly with regard to coal and the other is the monopoly with regard to land. I feel confident that they must deal and deal drastically with these matters. The Prime Minister has a detached mind and he has courage, and I ask him not to close his mind with regard to these two subjects. An hon. Friend on the Benches above me said that I had borrowed some ideas. Well, I do not like some monopolies, but I dislike still less a monopoly in ideas. If I have an idea and anybody likes to copy it, I feel flattered. If I do the same thing, why should not other people feel flattered? After all, there is no monopoly in ideas, and I ask the Prime Minister to consider the question of the two subjects to which I have referred.
I have read the White Paper of the Prime Minister. I think the proposals are quite inadequate to deal with agriculture. Agriculture is in a much worse state, I mean so far as food production is concerned, the keeping of the people on the land, and things which are vital to the life of the State. I ask the Prime Minister just to think of this. It is no use saying you will not have State interference. His White Paper is drenched with it. There is a million for drainage. What is the good of pouring millions of money down anybody's drains? Has the Prime Minister any control there? Does he really think this million pounds is going to restore the drainage of this country, waterlogged as the land is because of its neglect? And he does not touch the problem which every civilised country is dealing with; the problem of the reclamation of land which is not being used. The great task of the monks in this country, continued in the days of Cromwell, has ceased, and there has been no reclamation of land on a great scale for many years—and we have a million men out of work. I ask the Prime Minister to think of this; and it is the same, thing with mines. I know it is said that we have reached the peak, that we must not spend any more money, that the subsidy will come down. Has he forgotten that the price of coal goes up in the winter when there is more demand and goes down in the summer when there is less demand, and by the 575 month of May he will have spent £20,000,000 without any control, without any conditions, and without demanding anything in return.
There is no State interference worse than the State going with its purse in its hands and throwing millions here and millions there. That is exactly what hon. Gentlemen opposite voted for in July of last year, and without any conditions. I am all for the State spending money upon development. As I said on Tuesday last, I am for the £10,000,000 being spent on the development of African cotton fields. I am for the spending of money upon developments, but lot without control, not without knowing what you are getting in return. There has been an appeal from Members opposite that we should put our heads together. Surely we ought to do that. We can do it. Instead of bandying theories and formulas and doctrines and recriminations, could not we do something? We have 1,000,000 unemployed and trade is in a rather distressing condition. Could not we do it? Surely this chaos, this waste, this squalor is not the last word of Providence to mankind, and it is not the last word of civilised man in his effort to improve his condition.
§ Mr. NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN
I am sure the House will feel regret if the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has in any way curtailed his speech out of courtesy to me. I personally share that regret, for I have seldom listened to a speech of the right hon. Gentleman with greater entertainment, and with a greater measure of agreement, than I have to that which he has just delivered. This Debate has now lasted for four days. It has differed very much from any Debate on an Address that I can recollect as having taken place since I have been in the House. Debates on the Address have generally been used as an opportunity for the Opposition to survey the legislative programme set forth in the King's Speech, in order to fasten upon some weak point and to concentrate their batteries upon it with all the forces at their command. But on this occasion, following the lead of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), who spoke first in the Debate, and who is to follow me, 576 I believe, their attack has been dissipated over such a wide field that none of their spear points has even dented our armour.
I presume that it was with the general assent of his party that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) put his name to the Amendment which we have been discussing, and brought the Debate—instead of its being an attack on the legislative programme of the Government—into an academic discussion of Socialistic theories. I wonder whether his friends behind him had any idea of the use that the right hon. Gentleman was going to make of it. I have been informed that among the younger generation, especially the more forward ones, there is a system of signalling from the one sex to the other which is known as "giving the glad eye." The right hon. Gentleman is the very last man I should accuse of indulging in any impropriety of that kind, but it certainly appeared to me—as it did to several of my hon. Friends—that on this occasion he was undoubtedly making a signal of that description to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George).
I watched with great curiosity to see what would be the response to his advances. What may have been the advance, and what may have been the response, I do not know, but I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley has a legitimate grievance against his follower the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Dalton) who has not only spoiled the right Eon. Gentleman's case but has also interrupted the little flirtation and brought down upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley, a speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, which has absolutely demolished the whole case which the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to put forward. The worst of these academic discussions is that they have so little relation to the facts, and take us away to far from reality.
I must devote one or two minutes to the attack of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley upon the party to which I belong and the charge that we deceived the electorate by suggesting that we had a positive remedy for unemployment. I listened to that statement with a surprise which was shared generally upon the benches behind me. I scoured 577 my memory in vain for any recollection of this election manifesto which, it was suggested, had won us, at any rate, some votes if not our actual majority. I had hoped the right Gentleman would let us see the particular document.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I have had an opportunity of communicating with the headquarters of our party, and I have provided myself with a copy of the document to which the right hon. Gentleman was referring. It is not an Election manifesto at all. The document in question is a periodical which is issued from time to time and is reviewed and revised to meet circumstances as they arise. [HON. MEMBERS "Oh!"]
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Obviously, when a party carries out its pledges, it is no longer necessary to repeat them in documents of this character. For the official declaration of policy on unemployment we must refer to the pamphlet called "Looking Ahead," published in June, 1924, which contains these words:The only real remedy for unemployment is the re-establishment and maintenance of our trade at home and overseas.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The right hon. Gentleman is not quoting the document which I have here. The right hon. Gentleman is reading from a revision of a previous document, issued subsequent to the Election. The copy which I have here—issued by the National Unionist Association, Palace Chambers, Bridge Street—was published at the time of the Election. [HON. MEMBERS: "What date?"] There is no date, but it was issued at the time of the last Election. The number of the manifesto is, I think, the same number as the right hon. Gentleman's, namely, 2415, and the sentence is:The Unionist party has (in italics) a positive remedy for unemployment,and there follows the sentence that the right hon. Gentleman has read, and, at the heading, in big letters:Unemployment. The Unionists have (in large letters, underlined) a remedy for unemployment. See page 4.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman thought it necessary to intervene. He is in too much of a hurry. I was coming to what he said, and I will make my comment on it, as I come to it. The only result of his interruption is, I am afraid, to diminish the time available to his colleague for a reply. The right hon. Gentleman is not accurate in what he says. The document I read from first is a document which was drawn up by the leaders of our party, and approved by them, and issued in June, 1924. That contains official statement of Unionist policy upon unemployment. Now I come to the document to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, which is, as I say, not an election document, but one which is issued from time to time, and it is headed: "Unionist Policy." The particular number to which the right hon. Gentleman refers was issued in September, 1924.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Yes, after June, but why the hon. Member thinks that is a subject for triumph I do not quite understand. The right hon. Gentleman quoted a single sentence from this document without quoting the context. I shall quote the context, from which the House will see that the passage in question was merely a paraphrase of the passage which I read from the document published in June, three months before, end its allusion to a positive remedy was obviously a topical allusion to the statement made by the party opposite. This is what the document says:The Unionist party has a positive remedy for unemployment.That is obviously an allusion to the statement of the party opposite at the previous election, and it will be observed that there follows a definition of what the positive remedy was, which was singularly lacking before:This, it maintains, is alone to be found in the re-establishment and maintenance of our trade at home and abroad, for only so can constant work be provided and imports of food and raw materials maintained.It is perfectly clear to any impartial person that the use which the right hon. Gentleman made of his quotation was one which was absolutely unjustified. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the 579 real point to which we ought to direct our attention in considering the Amendment is the latter part of it. It is no use to pick out an instance here or there of the failure of any particular private enterprise, and to say that, because that particular institution has failed, some other untried and speculative system ought to be substituted. It is true, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Everton Division of Liverpool (Colonel Woodcock) said, that you can find instances of failure, not merely in private enterprise, but also in municipal or national enterprise. As long as human nature is what it is, you will always find mistakes made and failures, but before we change our system what you have to do is to show us, not merely that you can find black spots in the present system, but that the system that you want to introduce instead is one that will not have black spots itself.
The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) complained, in the course of the Debate last night, that the Minister of Health was always saying to him. "What is your practical scheme?" and be wanted to know why I continued to put such a question to him. It is because as a practical man, I am not prepared to accept any statement unless I am satisfied it is practical. I say if a thing is good, let, us have it, and do not let us be put off because someone or other says it is Socialism. I quite agree with the right: hon. Gentleman, that there is, really, in the practical application of this thing, no chasm which could not be crossed. I am sure if you filled up that little division between the benches opposite, the chasm would be found to be considerably less than that between the Opposition and the Government.
Then, consider the relation of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman to the state of things we find to-day. He said the action of Socialism is an evolution. He said it is a gradual evolution, but an inevitable one. I see in it some echo of another phrase, which was once used by a colleague of his with whom he does not always agree. I seem to catch the echo of "an inevitability of gradualness." How is the inevitability of gradualness going to find work for the unemployed to-day? How, for instance, would the national ownership of electri- 580 city find more work to-day for the unemployed than the scheme which the Government have already outlined Those are the questions I want answered before we accept any such Amendment as this. I am quite prepared to say there may be individual cases where common ownership may be advisable. I do not say that necessarily you are going to cheapen production or cheapen service by common ownership. Take the case of the water supply of any town mentioned again by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley. In my own town we have had to boring water from a site some 81 miles away.
It cost us 3s. in the extra rates to pay for our water.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I can conceive it possible that private enterprise might have done that if the municipality had been willing to pay private enterprise the difference between the actual cost of bringing the water and the cost of supply. I can conceive it might have been able to do that, and not put any larger charge upon the rates than is put on to-day. But, after all, that is not to be taken as an argument one way or the other. It proves nothing as to the comparative value of private enterprise and public ownership. What the party opposite have got to show is that their specific proposal is going so to reduce costs that the service to be transferred, or the property to be transferred from private enterprise to the State, is going to bring back a return greater than it does to-day, such as will enable our industries to compete better with the industries abroad.
It is significant that the only constructive idea put forward in the course of this Debate came from hon. Members On this side. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I have not heard one put forward, as I say, except by a couple of hon. Members on this side, and I am referring to the total impression made upon me by the speeches to which I have listened. What are the limits of the probable good which can be done by assistance of the sort suggested? Above all, I feel that the better way is to guide industry, to import fresh ideas into it, and to avoid too much restriction on the one hand and interference on the other. 581 The hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Edinburgh suggested that we might take a leaf out of the book of the employers in the United States. I entirely agree. I think the employers of this country might well study with profit what is being done by the employers of the United States. But why stop at the employers? Are the workers not able to profit by the example of the workers of the States? Certain unions in the United States, I think I am right in saying, use their money not to promote stoppage of work: they use their money to become capitalists themselves. They buy shares in the great industries. As I read in a book entitled "Labour's Money" a great proportion, 50 per cent. in some of them, and in others an enormous proportion of the capital is held by the workpeople, who have in that way truly become partners in the enterprises in which they are concerned.
They have gained a thousand-fold for that wise expenditure of their money. I leave that example to hon. Gentlemen opposite who, perhaps, are too apt to be carried away by catchwords. Because Socialism as applied to municipal enterprises is good in some directions, hon. Members opposite are disposed to think it is good for everything. It does not follow that because a plaster is good for a corn that there is any justification for thinking that it is also good for cancer. You can argue in that way, but what it is desirable to do is to clear our minds of cant and prejudice, and in the matter of business to keep an open mind. Instead of going to Russia for reasons and examples, it would be better to go to some great industrial country like the United States and bring back ideas which will really improve the condition of trade unionism in this country, and the industries which are suffering from that lack of prosperity which the country needs. All the improvements, all the social reforms which we desire to carry out must ultimately depend upon what the country can afford. For good or ill, it was decided many years ago that we were to be an industrial country, and as long as we are an industrial country, and as long as we are not self-supporting, we are bound to be dependent upon our trade, especially upon our overseas trade.
582 We are, therefore, in the position that we have got to work together, to realise that we cannot possibly hope to maintain our industrial position if we are quarrelling amongst ourselves, and it is because we believe that that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made so many and such earnest appeals throughout; the country for a better spirit in the future than we have seen in the past. Last year, I believe, that 8,000,000 working days were lost owing to industrial disputes. We have paid a very high price in order to obtain a breathing space during which we could examine into the problems in the coal industry and see if it were possible to find some peaceful solution of that dispute which threatened us so very heavily last summer. I do not know what the ultimate cost to the nation of the subsidy will be, but when the right hon. Gentleman says we have got nothing for it. I must profoundly dissent from that. Time! Time was everything. We in the Government must be judged ultimately, not by the number of millions of pounds which have gone in that way, but judged on whether we have been successful in averting a national disaster. I said that last year 8,000,000 working days were lost in trade disputes. In 1921 86,000,000 days were lost.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I am not blaming anybody. All I am saying is this, that if we had not paid the price that was necessary for avoiding disaster last August we might have lost as many million working days this year as we did in 1921, and I ask the House to consider whether trade and industry were in a position to support such a blow? We may fail, after all, and if we do fail we must be held responsible, and shall have to bear our responsibility; but I for one never regret the step that we took in keeping the peace even at that great cost, for I feel it was worth the risk of taking with the stakes for which we were playing.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by indicating to the House that he had listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) with a very large measure of agreement. Having now heard what has been said on 583 behalf of the Government, I am not surprised at his opening statement. I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is going to vote on this question.
On that point I can draw no conclusion from his speech, but no doubt in the end we shall find some fragment of the Liberal party in one Lobby and some in the other. If in those conclusions I am wrong, and if the Liberal votes are going to be cast as a united body, I have come to the conclusion that the Liberal party will find itself united within the confines of the Tory Lobby. No complaint should be offered to this Amendment on the ground that it merely raises academic questions, because it does much more than that. I recollect coming to this House about 20 years ago at a time when at the mere mention of the word "Socialism" one was regarded as a fanatic, and it was considered the greatest fault and heresy in British politics; in fact, Members would not have given five minutes of their time to take part in a Debate on such an Amendment as we are discussing to-day.
What have we seen during the last two days? We have seen the House seriously considering the various aspects of the question raised by this Amendment, and trying to apply its mind to the problem in order to carry out the main ideas and spirit of the Amendment before the House. I can assure my right hon. Friend that we appreciate the immense differences between this country and Russia, and for that reason we are seeking to settle these problems by free discussion in a democratically elected House. Of course we do not expect to see any of these great issues settled by the mere passing of an Amendment. As a matter of fact we are only now midway in our great task of conversion. Already we have secured the approval of more than five million of the electorate, and it is certain that long before we are halfway through the time we have to devote to securing more supporters we shall have secured twice as many. It is by conversion that conviction is carried and belief established in the proposals which have to be submitted to this House.
Hon. Members know that in the great city of Birmingham you have in practice as full a measure of Socialism as can be 584 found in any part of the world, Socialism, with which the name of the Minister of Health has been so long and honourably connected, in that city they have gone even to the length of establishing a bank under municipal auspices and by their example they are leading the way to this great national reform. I ask the House to observe that although there has been organised opposition to the Amendment nobody has attempted to defend the system which that Amendment assails. But suggestions and promises of alleviation have been continuously made in the hope that the present conditions may be tolerated a little longer. The King's Speech enumerates once more a number of small measures and further interferences with the existing system. Anyone who knows what has grown up under the existing system knows that our main task is to relieve and lessen the sufferings and the troubles which have arisen under it.
The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) appealed almost piteously to his leaders to do something, to give industry a constructive lead. You cannot give a lead to private enterprise under your present system because that system causes even Conservatives to interfere on its behalf, asking the State to do something to prop it up. The whole position which this Amendment attacks demonstrates conclusively the inability of the Ministers now in office to deal with a system of unchecked capitalism which has been growing up during the last three generations. We accept at least one prominent declaration in the King's Speech, that national interests are paramount. Ministers, I suspect, would not for a moment think when they approved that declaration that national interests are paramount, that they were approving what is fundamentally a Socialist doctrine. It is because we seed; the nation's interests and want to pursue them as against private, individual interest and greed that we make the proposals which we do. But, when we say that the national interests are paramount, we consider that it would be wrong, for instance, to refuse justice to the miners in the pursuit of their interests, and that no nation has a right to call upon a section to make undue sacrifices at a time when other sections of the nation are unduly enjoying that to which they have no more right.
585 I submit that, in addition to all that has been said from this side of the House, there are three outstanding national interests, which relate to food, fuel and shelter. Now, as to shelter, we have the slums, and we have a house shortage so appalling as in itself to be the cause of many serious consequential evils, and a Conservative Government is compelled to pride itself upon coming to the rescue of people who have not had their needs provided by private enterprise in the supply of houses. The nation must become responsible for the shelter of the people, and in that sense capitalism and private enterprise have failed in one of the first essentials of their existence. The coal chaos is another proof of the breakdown of private enterprise. As to food, the Prime Minister on Tuesday, when I raised some sides of this subject, considered that the time had not arrived for taking any legislative steps in respect of food supplies and prices.
For the moment, therefore, I return to the subject, and I ask him whether, in relation to so important an article as milk, he has read the very disturbing evidence, publicly revealed this week by Mr. Buckley, a very great expert and a highly experienced man, in regard to this article of food. The profiteering and the exploitation of the public because of the present conditions of the private supply of milk are nothing short of disgraceful, on the testimony of this non-Socialist expert in that very important article. This House has been engaged scores of times in trying to protect the public against the adulteration of food, and there are any number of Acts of Parliament on the Statute Book with a view to preventing the robbery of the consuming public in regard to many of these articles. Waste, profiteering, every possible evil has grown up side by ride with the private supply of food, and we, therefore, say that the Prime Minister might very well return to that casual observation of a year or so ago when he talked about bulk supplies, and the organisation of the needs of the day.
The Minister of Health this afternoon endeavoured, at great length, but I think with little success, to repel the criticisms levelled at him from this side on the question of the Tory claim to having a positive remedy for unemployment. Setting aside the terms of this afternoon's dis- 586 cussion, I would put to the Prime Minister what I hope is a fair question. If it be true that the Conservatives did not say they had a positive remedy, is it not also true that repeatedly in this House and in their official documents they have made a positive promise to provide a remedy? The Prime Minister the other day, when I quoted the language of the Tory manifesto, protected himself in silence. He said nothing whatever in relation to what I quoted. In the Tory manifesto, which was scattered in millions on the eve of the Election, and which is to be found now in the pages of the "Times" of that date, the Tory party declared that the party would treat the task of grappling with unemployment as a primary obligation. Our charge is that they have done nothing of the kind. We repeat that all that they have done with respect to the treatment of the unemployed has been further to ill-treat them by robbing them of benefit. Neither by legislation nor by administrative action has anything been even attempted to redeem this promise to grapple with the problem of unemployment as a primary obligation.
I find that comments have been made on both sides of the House on a statement made, I believe, last night, from these Benches, as to the possibility of some good mutually coming from a return to further conferences on these troublesome and, indeed, baffling questions, For myself, I say that I can see no hope of good from conferences unless beforehand we can meet on something like common ground, and understand what that ground is. Questions of detail are easily adjusted, and measures can be applied to settle them, if there is sonic agreement in principle. I ask, is there? Is there on the part of the Government any acceptance of the doctrine that the State has a responsibility towards the workless to find them employment when they cannot find work themselves; or, returning to the phrase of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, does the Government accept the responsibility of being the reserve employer of labour when men are turned out of the private workshop and cannot return to private employment?
Given some understanding or agreement upon these main principles, good may come from mutual conference among all 587 parties. But there have been conferences; much of my life has been spent in conferences. I attended day by day those conferences that met in the Central Hall, Westminister, and elsewhere, in 1919 and later. The then President of the Board of Trade, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs gave that great conference a send-off, and there were more than a hundred men on the two sides representing the employers' and the workers' points of view. They did meet in all earnestness, and by months of labour and conference they did hammer out certain points of agreement.
I recall that their minds were really upon their country's good and that they sought national well being by drawing up wage agreements which would avoid disaster and conflict in the various trades. Not one of the decisions of that joint conference found a welcome from the Government of the day. On eight hours, on questions of minimum wage, on a number of the outstanding points of former conflict between employer and employed, the two sides reached agreement and they turned to the Government to give effect to their decision, and it was because of the Government turning so often the cold shoulder, as it did, to those agreed decisions that finally, sick at heart and disgusted at the way the results of their work were received, the conference disbanded without any good result coming from it.
We were asked again what with all respect I say is a foolish question flung at times at these Labour Benches, Do we want to smash industry for political ends That question is put in face of the ceaseless endeavours which men on these benches are making to preserve the peace, to compose differences to prevent strikes, to argue and appeal with men to show greater patience, and sometimes even greater reason or submission. Within the last few weeks it is well known that very serious industrial trouble would have resulted had it not been for the night and day labours of certain of the leaders of Labour who sit in this House. There is no ground whatever for these questions and these suspicions. We have perhaps a primary interest, as representing the wage earners, in maintaining industrial 588 peace and in preventing conflicts, from which, after all, the working men themselves will suffer.
There is a good deal of provocative nonsense talked about men who are said to be in the sheltered trades, how we are to envy say a railway porter or a commissionaire who is not engaged in some competitive pursuit. If certain men enjoy a condition which is a little better than the worst condition, are they supposed to be in a privileged position? Upon what ground is that conclusion reached? How is it that that same principle is not applied to the capitalists' The capitalist, if he can, secures his the per cent., and indeed many of them do. Is it ever said that they are in a sheltered position and that they are taking an opportunity that they ought not to enjoy? If we are to have these doctrines applied in any degree to Labour we answer that they must be applied to capital as well. If a railway porter or an engine driver—who, by the way, often gets less for his arduous and dangerous work than a tipster's clerk—is in a privileged position as compared with lesser paid men, that does not say that he is well off. It merely emphasises the very bad position of his neighbours.
Two or three right hon. Gentlemen in the course of this Debate have drawn our attention to America, as the Prime Minister did in a public speech a few days ago. The Prime Minister then said there is much more for us to learn on both sides from studying the conditions in America than by spending any amount of money in studying conditions in Moscow and the job in some other form has been repeated in this House to-day. The answer is this, that long before we ever thought to send anyone to Russia our delegates were sent to America. I, with others, was sent to America 25 years ago. We send them every year to America, and from America every year they come here. If there is anything in America which our workmen are to imitate, are there not things in America which our employers might imitate? There is the law of high wages. There is the admission in America that you cannot expect good output, efficiency, high standards of health, unless your men are well remunerated. Therefore, we say that this is not a one-sided subject, and much good might be done in this country 589 if the British employers followed the example of American employers in these respects.
When the Tsar anti his Court reigned in Russia, Moscow was not such a bad place, nor was Petrograd. How is it that these changes have come about in regard to Russia in the minds of so many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite? It is merely because of a change in Government, a change in experiment. I have no time to pursue that subject further. I am certain that if I had the figures before me I could prove that proportionate to population and occupation as between this country and America there are as many workers in this country employed on the piece-work basis as in the United States. That is to say, employed under conditions which give them every possible inducement, indeed compel them to do their best for wage result purposes. In this country we have, as in America, agreements in the form of co-partnership and profit-sharing schemes. The British workman is a very good soul when there is an election on and he is being appealed to for his vote, but in between he seems to get very little in the way of compliment or praise from hon. and right hon.
§ Gentlemen opposite. It is that kind of thing which helps to manufacture the Communists, most of whom, by the way, are the younger sons of older Tory fathers.
§ In 1924 the Labour Government inherited a great harvest of industrial trouble. We saw it through and we lived it down, and we finished that year on the verge of increasing good trade, as the present King's Speech admits. It is not true, as alleged in the King's Speech that in 1925 trade depression returned because of industrial disputes. There was only one great dispute during 1925, and that was because employers in Yorkshire towns locked out a few hundred thousands of woollen workers who would not accept another reduction in wages. We cannot have goodwill or fellowship cultivated upon any basis of low wages and high profits, on the cruelties of the slums or on the with holding of unemployment pay to thousands of men who are entitled to it.
§ Question put: "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 112; Noes, 299.593
|Division No. 1]||AYES||[4.0 p.m.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hirst, G. H.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Baker, Walter||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Barnes, A.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Batey, Joseph||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snell, Harry|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Kelly, W. T.||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)|
|Broad, F. A.||Kirkwood, D.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Bromley, J.||Lansbury, George||Stephen, Campbell|
|Buchanan, G.||Lawson, John James||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lee, F.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lowth, T.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lunn, William||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Connolly, M.||Mackinder, W.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Cove, W. G.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Thurtle, E.|
|Dalton, Hugh||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||March, S.||Townend, A. E.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Maxton, James||Viant, S. P.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Montague, Frederick||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dennison, R.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Duncan, C.||Naylor, T. E.||Warne, G. H.|
|Dunnico, H.||Palin, John Henry||Westwood, J.|
|Edwards C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Paling, W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Whiteley, W.|
|Gillett, George M.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Gosling, Harry||Potts, John S.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Purcell, A. A.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Riley, Ben||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Groves, T.||Ritson, J.||Windsor, Walter|
|Grundy, T. W.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Wright, W.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Rose, Frank H.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydyil)||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Hardie, George D.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hastings, Sir Patrick||Scrymgeour, E.||Mr. A. Kennedy and Mr. Allen|
|Hayday, Arthur||Scurr, John||Parkinson.|
|Hayes, John Henry||Sexton, James|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Eden, Captain Anthony||Loder, J. de V.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Looker, Herbert William|
|Albery, Irving James||Elveden, Viscount||Lord, Walter Greaves-|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Lougher, L.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Lumley, L. R.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||MacAndrew, Charles Glen|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Fenby, T. D.||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Atkinson, C.||Fermoy, Lord||Macintyre, I.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Fielden, E. B.||McLean, Major A.|
|Balniel, Lord||Finburgh, S.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Ford, Sir P. J.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Forrest, W.||MacRobert, Alexander M.|
|Berry, Sir George||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. steel-|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Malone, Major P. B.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Blundell, F. N.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Gates, Percy||Mason, Lieut.-Colonel Glyn K.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Gee, captain R.||Merriman, F. B.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Goff, Sir Park||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Gower, Sir Robert||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Grant, J. A.||Mordon, Colonel Walter Grant|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E.)||Murchison, C. K.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (P trsf'ld.)|
|Burman, J. B.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hammersley, S. S.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Harland, A.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Harrison, G. J. C.||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Campbell, E. T.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Penny, Frederick George|
|Cassels, J. D.||Haslam, Henry C.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hawke, John Anthony||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Perring, Sir William George|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Philipson, Mabel|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Pielou, D. P.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Pilcher, G.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hills, Major John Walter||Pownall Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hilton, Cecil||Preston William|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Radford, E. A.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Ramsden, E.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Holland, Sir Arthur||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Holt, Captain H. P.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Homan, C. W. J.||Remer, J. R.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Howard, Capt. Hon. D. (Cumb., N.)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Cope, Major William||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Couper, J. B.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Russell, Alexander West- (Tynemouth)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Rye, F. G.|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Huntingfield, Lord||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Hurst, Gerald B.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Savery, S. S.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. F. S.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsay, Gainsbro)||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Simon Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Cunliffe, Sir Joseph Herbert||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Dalziel, Sir Davison||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Smithers, Waldron|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Spender Clay, Colonel H.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Storry-Deans, R.||Ward, Lt.- Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Warrender, Sir Victor||Womersley, W. J.|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Templeton, W. P.||Watts, Dr. T.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Thom, Lt.- Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)||Wells, S. R.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)||White, Lieut.- Colonel G. Dalrymple||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Tinne, J. A.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.- Colonel George||Colonel Gibbs and Major Sir Harry|
|Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl||Barnston.|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being after Four of the clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next (8th February).594
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, Without Question put, pursuant to standing Order No. 3, until Monday next, pursuant to the Resolution of the House of this day.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Ten Minutes after Four o'clock.